Ellen Garrison Jackson
1823 – ~1880s, ~ 50s
I have a great desire to go and labor among the Freedmen of the South. I think it is our duty as a people to spend our lives trying to elevate our own race… Who can feel for us if we do not feel for ourselves? And who can feel the sympathy that we can who are identified with them?
– Ellen Garrison Jackson
Letter to the American Missionary Association, 1863
In 1835, at 12 years of age, Ellen desegregated Concord’s Bicentennial Parade, walking hand in hand with a white neighbor, Abba Prescott, “beneath the gaze of curiosity, surprise, ridicule, and admiration.” (Abba Prescott Brooks obituary, The Christian Register, 1851)
Almost 90 years before Rosa Parks (Civil rights activist who refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger, spurring the Montgomery boycott and other efforts to end segregation in 1955). Ellen had a Maryland railroad stationmaster arrested. In 1866, Ellen wrote that she and another teacher were “thrown out” of the Port Deposit, Md. railroad ladies waiting room. “We were injured in our persons as well as our feelings, for it was with no gentle hand that we [were] assisted from that room, and I feel the effects of it still…. It is different from the past, we can now give evidence.”
Ellen’s life and experiences are testimonials to the period as she signed petitions on behalf of a broader community, including the Cherokees; fighting back against injustice and finally settling in Kansas.
Ellen Garrison – Educator, Social Justice Advocate, Daughter of Concord
Ellen Garrison was born in the Robbins House in 1823. After her inspiring and challenging youth in Concord, Massachusetts, she moved to Boston, where she became a teacher and joined the city’s social justice community. She attended events and assisted with fundraisers for abolitionist and equal rights causes. After the Civil War she moved to Port Deposit, Maryland, to teach newly freed people. In 1866, she and another teacher challenged the nation’s first Civil Rights Act, which conferred citizenship and equal rights on African Americans
Caesar Robbins’ granddaughter Ellen Garrison tested the nation’s first Civil Rights Act in 1866, barely a month after it was passed.
Come learn the story of this remarkable activist and how she was shaped by her childhood in Concord, her time with the Boston Antislavery Society and Joy Street Church, her passion for teaching newly freed people in the South after the Civil War, and her final years as an “exoduster” in Kansas. Books are being written about her now – let our interpreters show and tell you her exceptional story.