Above: Librarian Eddie T. Jackson – Story time at the Booker T. Washington Branch Library circa 1927
Eddie Natalie Byrd Thomas Cromartie Jackson
Eddie Jackson was born Eddie Natalie Byrd Thomas on March 25th, 1902, in Tampa, Florida. Her mother, Woodie Julia Byrd Thomas, died in 1913 when Eddie was only 11 years old. READ her detailed family history.
Eddie and her mother Woodie Julia Byrd Thomas circa 1908.
Eddie’s early training took place at the Harlem Academy in Tampa, Florida. After her mother’s death, Eddie moved to Orlando where she attended Johnson Academy, graduating in 1918. Eddie became the first African American woman from Orlando to earn a Bachelor of the Arts Degree, graduating from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1924. She was involved in the library services at the college, and later studied at Atlanta University earning a Certificate of Library Science. She was also active in many community and church organizations, and was well known for her musical talent.
Eddie Natalie Byrd Thomas (on right).
Booker T. Washington Branch of the Albertson Public Library
Eddie Jackson assumed her role as Orlando’s first African American librarian on June 11, 1924, when the Booker T. Washington Branch first welcomed members of the African American community to their new library. She remained the head librarian at the Booker T. Washington Branch until she retired in 1946.
Above: The Booker T. Washington Branch Library in what was the former rectory at the St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Below: St. John’s Episcopal Church, the library, and Day Nursery. Photos circa 1930.
Each month, as the librarian of the Booker T. Washington Branch, Eddie prepared a handwritten monthly report in narrative form. Her hopes and dreams for the people she served and for her library are evident in her writings. The original handwritten reports are included with the Albertson Public Library monthly reports.
The handwritten reports have also been transcribed by year for better access.
March 1927 Booker T. Washington Monthly Report
Librarian Eddie T. Cromartie’s report for March 1927: “The Booker T. Washington Branch Library is doing exceptionally well. Our enrollment has reached nine hundred seventy. There seems to be a growing interest among the adults as well as the children. Amount of over due fines .82 cents. Number of loans for month 2011. I am in need of some things: a duster, writing paper, one bulb, and some ink.”
Books checked out for the week ending October 28, 1944.
The above report enumerates the juvenile non-fiction books checked out, and also total check outs for Adult Fiction, Juvenile Fiction and Magazines. This appears to be the total for the week ending Saturday, October 28, 1944.
Webster Avenue Elementary School
At the same time that Eddie served as librarian at the Booker T. Washington Branch Library, she also taught at the Webster Avenue Elementary School in Winter Park. After 34 years teaching, she retired in 1958.
From OCPS History: “Eleven OCPS schools were still considered segregated in 1970 by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals – Callahan Elementary, Carver Junior High, Eccleston Elementary, Holden Street Elementary, Hungerford Elementary, Maxey Elementary, Orange Center Elementary, Richmond Heights Elementary, Washington Shores Elementary, Webster Avenue Elementary, and Wheatley Elementary. A desegregation agreement followed, resulting in the closure of many black schools and the busing of thousands of students.”
Eddie and her husband John Henry Jackson.
Read about John Jackson and the Charity Club.
Eddie passed away on October 26, 1979 at the age of 77. Her obituary, published in the Orlando Sentinel on October 28, 1979, did not begin to list all her accomplishments or her efforts to serve her church and her community. It simply states: “Mrs. Eddie Thomas Jackson, 77, 730 W. Jackson Street, Orlando, died Friday. Born in Tampa, she moved to Orlando in 1914. She was a retired teacher and a member of the Mount Olive A.M.E. Church. She was a member of the Emergency Board League. Survivors: daughter, Mrs. Yvonne Jackson Harris, Orlando; and three grandchildren.”
This painting, by artist John Stevens, was unveiled on February 29, 2000 at an event honoring the life and work of Librarian Eddie T. Jackson. It is currently located on the Fourth Floor of the Orlando Public Library.
Read Eddie Natalie Byrd Thomas Cromartie Jackson’s family and career history.
Read more about Eddie T. Jackson’s life and legacy on the Orange County Library System’s blog.
Read more about local history of Orlando’s African American Libraries.
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Mrs. Eddie T. Jackson was Orlando's first librarian of African-American heritage. She was the librarian at the Booker T. Washington branch library from 1924 to 1946. On February 24, 2000, an event to honor the memory of Eddie T. Jackson. This four page tribute along with a notice penned by Mrs. Eddie Thomas Cromartie and published in the Orlando Sentinel in July 1927 were given to those attending the celebration.
You can find the tribute is located in the Orange County Biography vertical files at the Orlando Public Library or you can peruse it here.
Mrs. Jackson was a librarian in Orlando from1924 until she retired in 1946. Orlando's first black librarian, born March 25, 1902; died October 26, 1979.
Society Events - Honoring Mrs. John H. Jackson (Eddie T. Jackson). The Charity Club founded by John H. Jackson honored his widow Eddie Jackson at a function in March 1929.
Brief history of the Booker T. Washington branch library from 1924-1984, compiled by John Martin for the 2001 dedication of a plaque at the 1954 Branch.