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Get On Board: The Life & Legacy of Marion Jackson Downs

In honor of Black Music Month, we've chosen to highlight the illustrious life and career of singer and concert pianist Marion Jackson Downs.

Marion Jackson Downs. Courtesy of the Nanny Jack & Co Archives.

Marion Jackson was born September 12, 1916 in Arkansas. She was the third daughter of Keiffer Albert Jackson and Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson, the longtime president of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP, a pioneering civil rights leader and property owner.

Marion, her parents, and her siblings, Juanita, Virginia, and Bowen lived at 1216 Druid Hill Avenue, situated in Marble Hill, which is a part of Old West Baltimore.

The 1200 block of Druid Hill Avenue, where Marion Jackson & her family lived. Courtesy of the

Nanny Jack & Co Archives.

Jackson was a graduate of Frederick Douglass High School (Baltimore); Coppin State Teacher's College (Baltimore); Sam Houston College (Austin, Texas); Juilliard Institute (New York) and Columbia University (New York) with her Master's in Music.

She married the Rev. Karl Everette Downs, president of Huston College, and they had one daughter, Karleen. Downs was the author of the seminal book, "Meet the Negro," a collection of biographical sketches of various famous and accomplished Black Americans from the 19th and 20th centuries. Karl dedicated the book to his wife, Marion. Unfortunately, Karl E. Downs died in 1948, at the age of 36.

Karl Everette Downs' funeral 1948 funeral program. Courtesy of the Nanny Jack & Co Archives.

In 1950, Marion received a Fulbright Grant