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A First Family

Posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008.

Mary Hinkson Jackson is a proud member of an African American family of firsts. Her daughter, Jennifer, gave her the Storycorps experience as a birthday gift. At this milestone in her life, Mary thought it was appropriate to honor the contributions of members of her family who rose above systemic limitations.

A First Family

Mary’s sister, Cordelia Hinkson and her cousin, Georgine Willis, were the among the first African American women to attend Cornell University.

De Haven HInkson @ home, WWII

Dr. DeHaven Hinkson

Mary’s father, Dr. DeHaven Hinkson, was the first African American to direct a U.S. Army hospital during World War II. He was charged with building the Army hospital at Tuskeegee Institute.

Mary, Lady in White

Mary: Lady in White
Mary was one of the first African American dancers to join the Martha Graham Dance company. A few of the many dances performed by her include Dark Meadow, Canticle for Innocent Comedians based on the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, In Praise of Earth, Seraphic Dialogue about Joan of Arc, Diversion of Angels, Cave of the Heart, based on the life of Madea, Deaths and Entrances, based on the life of the Bronte sisters, and Lady in White.


MaryHinkson Circe

Mary: Circe

Mary was also the first African American, along with Arthur Mitchell, to dance with the New York City Ballet. They performed George Balanchine’s Figures in the Carpet, which was Balanchine’s response to George Wallace’s aggressive stand against desegregation at the University of Alabama in 1963.

Daddy @D&G, ca1983

Julian Jackson

Mary’s husband, Julian Jackson, owned and operated the D&G Bakery in Little Italy. There were no other African American proprietors on Mulberry Street when he purchased the bakery. Across the street was a Gambino family establishment, and at the other end of the block was a Genovese establishment. In the beginning of Julian’s venture, both of his trucks were torched. He responded by paying a visit to the Genoveses. Mary says that after that visit they had no more problems running their business in Little Italy. In fact, for 18 years after Julian’s death, three African American women – Mary, her daughter, Jennifer and her niece, Beverly – managed the D&G Bakery at 240 Mulberry Street.

Amazing! And this is just a snapshot of this family between the middle and end of the 20th Century!

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6 Responses to “A First Family”

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  • Balanchine’s “Figure in the Carpet” ballet had nothing to do with George Wallace or desegregation;I know because it was my idea. See Robert Gottlieb’s book, “Reading Dance.” It premiered in April 1960, not 1963. I was delighted to see Mary (“Bunny”) Hinkson in it; I knew her at the U. of Wisconsin. She was a great dancer and a lovely person.

    Comment from Rosanne Klass on March 29, 2013 at 2:39 am - Reply to this Comment
  • This is a great post about a great people.
    Does anyone know if I could contact Mary Hinkson Jackson or Ms. Nzingha?

    Comment from Enika on November 11, 2009 at 4:58 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Martha Graham was amazing and a true pioneer.
    Mary Hinkson is such a great dancer .
    Watching her in Graham’s “A Dancers World” is so motivating and touching.
    It is a true delight to watch her dream-like discipline unfold with such poetic discretion.
    You can feel that she understands the privilege she’s involved in.

    Comment from Andre Walker on April 3, 2009 at 11:36 am - Reply to this Comment
  • That’s my Aunt Mary. What a superstar !

    Bing Brown

    Comment from Charles Brown on April 1, 2009 at 4:13 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • So many important firsts in one family! Great pictures, thank you for sharing them.

    Comment from Chaela on December 4, 2008 at 11:06 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • what gorgeous dance photos!

    Comment from Anna on December 3, 2008 at 11:23 am - Reply to this Comment

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