Albert Jackson was just a toddler when he took a trip on the Underground Railroad with his mother, Ann Maria Jackson, and six brothers and sisters. Ann Maria was an enslaved woman in Delaware who had nine living children, but her eldest two had been sold away from the family. Her husband, a free Black man named John Jackson, had died of grief.
When Ann Maria accidentally learned that her slave master intended to sell four more of her children away from her, in desperation, she ran away with seven of her children. They ranged from two or three up to about sixteen years old. Albert was the youngest child.
It was a very difficult journey. Escaping on foot with seven young children was not an easy task. Every step they took led them through dangerous territory infested with slave catchers – bounty hunters who made a living by catching runaway slaves and taking them back to their owners for a reward. The littlest children would not have been able to walk very fast, and the cries or noise they made endangered the whole family. Most women with children did not attempt to flee because it was just too dangerous, and Ann Maria and her family were very unusual in that respect.
Fortunately, the Jacksons were rescued by Underground Railroad agents en route to Wilmington, Delaware. The agents picked them up in a carriage and were able to transport them across the border into Pennsylvania, a free state. Ann Maria and her children were met by an important African American Underground Railroad “stationmaster” named William Still. He recorded their story, and marvelled at the courage and determination of Ann Maria in taking her family away so they could become free. William Still and his allies sent them on to Canada, where they settled in downtown Toronto.
In Toronto, Ann Maria took in laundry, which she did by hand, so she could support her children and her oldest boys became waiters in the city hotels. Little Albert Jackson had the opportunity to attend school and receive an education, something some of his older brothers and sisters did not have. The family lived in an area where many former refugees from slavery had found homes, around Osgoode Hall in a part of the city called “St. John’s Ward.”
Although, there were many benefits to living in freedom in Toronto, Black people still experienced racism. In 1882, Albert, now a young man, obtained a very good job as a postman. However, the white postmen did not want to work with him and refused to train him. He was given a job as a hall porter rather than being allowed to become a postman.
The Black community in Toronto wrote letters to the editors of the newspapers and met at the African Canadian church on Richmond Street to protest this discrimination and decide upon a plan of action. Fortunately, an election was coming up and Albert’s boss was a good friend of Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald. He promised to train Jackson as a letter carrier, in order to convince African Canadians to vote for his party so they could win the election. Less than a month later, Albert Jackson began his training as a letter carrier and became the first known Black mailman in Toronto. One year later, he married Henrietta Jones and over the next years, had four sons: Alfred, Bruce, Richard and Harold. Albert remained with the post office for thirty-six years, retiring upon his death in 1918.