It’s so unlikely that Oak Bluffs, the biggest tiny town on the rock, would have made valuable contributions to black American history. With the demeaning political season underway to replace the first African American president, perhaps reflecting upon those who helped pave the way might lessen the constant calumny in the news. It’s difficult to imagine how hard it was to be among the first black elected officials. Chronologically by birth, Oak Bluffs Highlands' Herbert Loring Jackson (10/20/1908 – 1978) racked up quite a few firsts. The handsome, impeccably dressed gentleman entered politics early, becoming president of his mostly white Malden High School class in 1927. The 13th child of a devout Christian family — where all six brothers completed high school and all seven daughters college — Mr. Jackson worked with his father at his tailoring business, pressing and delivering clothes. Despite his dad’s encouragement to enter the ministry, Herbie, as he was called, tried Suffolk Law School but soon changed to the Massachusetts School of Art where he studied drama and went on to perform onstage to critical acclaim.

In 1937, he was lucky enough to marry Doris Pope, part of our Shearer family, and they became parents to Gail (deceased), Lee Van Allen, Shearer Cottage’s proprietor today, and Herbert Jr.

Popularly elected in 1946, Herbert L. Jackson, a Republican, became the city of Malden’s first African American city councilor with a 24-year tenure from Malden’s wards 7 and 5 until 1975. He also served as deputy mayor, president of the council and as acting mayor in the mayor’s absence.

From 1950 to 1954, Mr. Jackson became the first black person elected as a Massachusetts State House Representative. Noted for his untiring efforts on behalf of youth activities, charitable causes and civic crusades, Herbert Jackson’s strength, vision and commitment improved the quality of life for the people in the city of his birth. On Oct. 11, 1978, following Mr. Jackson’s death, another Oak Bluffs elected official, Senator Edward W. Brooke, read into the Senate’s Congressional Record: “Herbert Loren Jackson was not only my friend, but also my inspiration. He charted a new course in American politics. He proved that a black person could be elected by a white constituency on the basis of individual merit and potential.”

Senator Brooke went on to request that Mr. Jackson’s obituary from the Malden Evening News be entered into the record. It was entitled, “Jackson’s Example Proudly Remembered.”

Mary Jane at the Oak Bluffs Public Library — cultural center, exercise facility, beverage and culinary kitchen and game room — has a host of activities scheduled for February. Be sure to check their website ( One activity is Storytime with a Beat on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Rhythm sticks, shakers and other noise makers are used while folks sing, read and play. It’s for ages 3 and up — that sounds just crazy!

In preparation for Valentine’s Day, cookie decorating for kids of all ages is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 5 from 10 to 11 a.m. Save some energy for the Family Valentine Dance Party on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Also on Saturday, Feb. 13, Patricia J. Williams, who writes the Diary of a Mad Law Professor column for The Nation, will speak at the library. She has several degrees and has served on the faculties of many universities. Her address is titled: No Laughing Matter: Elections are Serious Business.

Dr. Williams is presented by the League of Women Voters for Black History Month and you can contact Julia Burgess at 508-693-3338 for more information. Refreshments will be served at 10 a.m. and the program follows at 10:30 a.m.

If you missed Oak Bluffs filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s latest movie, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, its national television debut is on PBS (WGBH Channel 2/702), Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 9 p.m.

The planning board has apparently decided the existing new town hall plan needs work so it won’t be on the ballot until that’s done. Or they approve, whichever comes first.

The city of Malden’s council chamber was named the Herbert L. Jackson Council Chambers on Dec. 16, 1975.

Keep your foot on a rock.

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