Photo: Toronto Public Library
Being commemorated on a National postage stamp is one of the most sought-after forms of recognition that a person’s noteworthy legacy can receive. Added this year to the list of noteworthy African Americans who’ve made historic contributions to culture and industry is Albert Jackson, Canada’s first Black postman.
Jackson was born into slavery in Delaware around 1856 as one of nine children. After two of his older siblings were sold and then his father’s untimely passing, Jackson’s mother decided to take her remaining seven children and flee to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Jackson was just a toddler at the time. The family ultimately settled in Toronto where Jackson came of age and began to work to help provide for his family.
In 1882, Jackson became a government-appointed letter carrier at a time when most Black men were simply day laborers or served in hospitality-oriented jobs. Jackson’s mere presence when he reported for work the first time caused tremendous controversy as the majority of his fellow white carriers were not favorable to training nor working alongside him. Local newspapers began circulating articles to either further degrade Jackson or speak up for his equal treatment.
Photo: Library and Archives Canada
The public outcry came to a head when a Black preacher and editor of 'The British Lion' newspaper of the time called out the government for not stepping in to defend Jackson’s appointment if they were decidedly in favor of him enough to hire him to work for the Toronto Post Office. The Black community of Toronto soon galvanized in support of Jackson and demanded of the acting prime minister to return Jackson to his full duties as mail carrier. Not only was Jackson returned to his postal route but he assumed the role for 36 years until his death in 1918.
This #BlackHistoryMonth @canadapostcorp issues a stamp honoring Albert Jackson, 1st Black letter carrier in Canada. Jackson's appointment in 1882 resulted in opposition from colleagues & public debate, fueled by racism. Download @DriftscapeApp for more info from our #HTplaque. pic.twitter.com/N3hiVksG1W— Heritage Toronto (@heritagetoronto) January 25, 2019
Jackson’s great-great-grandson, Jamaal Jackson Rogers, is an Ottawa poet laureate who has often times referred to himself as a messenger via his spoken word pieces. He’s been beaming with pride to learn of his relative’s historic legacy and the commemorative stamp that will formally acknowledge his barrier shattering work in Toronto and Canada at-large. Jackson Rogers shared with CBC Radio’s All In A Day, "Someone asked me, 'Hey can you perform something?' And ... right on the spot I said, 'You know, I think I'm not going to call myself a performer anymore. I think I'm going to call myself a messenger, delivering messages. And I didn't know at the time, when I had said that, that Albert Jackson was my [relative]. So there is something serendipitous."
Albert Jackson’s contributions to the Toronto General Post Office was also honored with a plaque in 2017 by Heritage Toronto. The plaque rests at the site of the old Toronto General Post Office where Jackson would pick up mail to be delivered. A short street behind his former Toronto home has also been named in his honor along with a play and book chronicling his unique story and key presence in the struggle against racism in Canada.