Calobe Jackson Jr. and Harrisburg’s African American heritage to be honored

Calobe Jackson Jr. and Harrisburg’s African American heritage to be honored

Historic Harrisburg will pay tribute to Calobe Jackson Jr. and the city’s African American heritage with a program at 5 p.m. Sept. 20 at Jackson Square.

The ceremony was originally scheduled to be held in May as part of Harrisburg’s observance of Preservation Month but was rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson Square is a “historic block of 19th-century buildings” that are being renovated and it is where Calobe grew up, according to Historic Harrisburg.

It also will include the unveiling of an outdoor history exhibit, “The African-American Business District that became Jackson Square.”

The ceremony will be held outside in the 1200 block of North Sixth Street. The street will be closed to traffic.

According to a news release from Historic Harrisburg, “The ceremony honoring Calobe Jackson will be staged in front of the newly restored 1002 N. Sixth Street, Calobe’s childhood home.

Other buildings in the block, namely the Curtis Building at 1000 N. Sixth Street and the former Jackson Rooming House at 1006 N. Sixth Street, are undergoing restoration by a team of investors that includes Harrisburg native sons and professional football players LeSean and LeRon McCoy, and Matt Long, whose firm, Harrisburg Commercial Interiors, is the recipient of a 2020 Preservation Award from Historic Harrisburg Association.

That building, at 254-256 North Street, now houses Elementary Coffee and three apartments after sitting vacant for more than 30 years.

Calobe Jackson Jr. is a lifelong resident of Harrisburg whose roots run deep and whose knowledge of local and African-American history is virtually unsurpassed. His record of community service includes dozens of causes, organizations and accomplishments, all generously contributed with unwavering civility and optimism.”

Historic Harrisburg provided this biographical information about Jackson:

“Born on Easter Sunday, 1930, in Harrisburg Hospital, he first lived at Aberdeen and Strawberry Alleys near Old City Hall, where his father, Calobe Jackson Sr. operated a barbershop and pool hall.

In 1934, the family and the Jackson businesses relocated to 1002 N. Sixth Street, as the continuing Capitol expansion displaced the thriving African-American community in the Old Eighth Ward. Jack’s Barbershop, as it was known to lessen confusion with the adjacent Jackson Rooming House (owned by the equally prominent German Jackson family) has been restored by LBR Properties as part of the block-long Jackson Square revitalization project.

This block of buildings is the last surviving remnant of Harrisburg’s once-thriving 20th-century African-American business corridor. It also includes the renowned Old Jackson House restaurant, which was deeded by German Jackson to restaurateur Dave Kegris some 30 years ago.

Educated at Boas Elementary School, Camp Curtin Jr. High, and William Penn High School “48, young Calobe Jackson studied two years at Lincoln University until being drafted into the Army in 1951, serving with an all-Black battalion as engineer/surveyor.

Upon discharge, he began a four-decade career with the Post Office, first at the old ‘Federal Square,’ then at the ‘new’ post office at 10th and Market, from which he retired in 1990.

Calobe’s community service over the past 30 years has been extensive.

He served on the Harrisburg School Board from 1992 to 1999. In 2000 he served as a regional technician for the U.S. Census. In 2001 he was re-elected to the school board, subsequently being appointed by Mayor Stephen Reed to the school district Board of Control. During this period, he helped to establish the Math-Science Academy and the acclaimed ‘Sci Tech High’ school.

In 2004, he was appointed chair of the Board of Control, serving until 2010, when control reverted to the elected school board.

Jackson’s other positions included: Trustee of Harrisburg University, 2005 to 2010; 15 years as a Trustee of the Historical Society of Dauphin County; Harrisburg Planning Commission, 2000 to 2018 (where his fellow commissioners relied on his local knowledge, stating: ‘you know the history!’). He is a member and past Commander of the Ephraim Slaughter Post of the American Legion.”

Reservations are required for the event. It also will be livestreamed on the Historic Harrisburg website.

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