On May 18, 2014 at 2:00pm; The Historic Bellefonte, Inc.; and The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission awarded our Honorable and Deceased Brother James Albert “Billboard” Jackson; member Iota Sigma Chapter Richmond, VA an Historical Marker to commemorate his legacy in the area of business, in front of his childhood home in the town of Bellefonte, PA. The event was attended by our Eastern Regional Director of Bigger & Better Business, our Immediate Pass Eastern Regional Director of Bigger of Better Business Brother Van Rosebrough and Bro. Maynard Minor of Nu Sigma Sigma Chapter. Bro. Solwazi was one of the guest speakers and spoke on behalf of the Fraternity. James A. Jackson (June 20, 1878 – November 16, 1960) was a prominent African American journalist and first black editor of Billboard Magazine. He promoted black theater during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance and later fostered African American business activities for the US Department of Commerce, served as a public relations specialist for Standard Oil Company from 1934 until his retirement in 1955, was the first black to become a member of the American Marketing Association, and was a member and lifetime official of The International Organization of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., an organization of college educated professional men who have devoted their lives to community service. The eldest of 14 children, he was born in Bellefonte, PA, attended public schools and left home at the age of 18 to pursue his career. The historical marker will be placed in front of his boyhood home on East High Street, Bellefonte. Billboard magazine was the first white trade paper to recognize the potential of black performance and to foster its growth. On October 20, 1920, William H. Donaldson, editor and publisher of Billboard, then the oldest and largest American entertainment trade paper, made an announcement that represented a historic breakthrough for black performers: “Beginning on November 6, 1920, a new feature section, written by a Black man and devoted to Black performers, artists, managers, and agents, will appear . . . weekly . . .”. “Jackson brought form to a generation of “invisible” men and women. They were bucking the stereotypes, and Jackson brought them into view.” (Source: Hill, Dr. Anthony. “A Voice for Black Performance.” Billboard Magazine, 100th Anniversary Issue 1894—1994, November 1, 1004, page 76). He also went behind the curtain to highlight the activities and interactions of figures from all aspects of the business side of the trade: music publishers, theater owners, talent bookers, and others. J. A. Jackson’s Page, as it was titled, ended its run on June 20, 1925. In addition to his professional career, Jackson served as a Deputy of The Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree Scottish Rite Masons, was a life member of Prince Hall Freemasonry and of the A.E.A. Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and Grand Commissioner of Economics of I.B.P.O. Elks of the World. Bro. Jackson was inducted into Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; on April 10, 1931 as a member of The Iota Sigma Chapter in Richmond, VA. His legacy and contributions to the business world continue today through the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. James A. “Billboard” Jackson Business Development Grants given bi-annually each year to one collegiate and one alumni for the continuation or start of a business.
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