Jack and Jill of America

I was reading the January/February 2009 issue of Uptown Magazine and read an interesting article about Jack & Jill of America. The article is written by author Lawrence Otis Graham. One of Graham’s books, Our Kind of People, has a chapter about Jack and Jill of America. Graham also wrote The Senator & The Socialite and Member of the Club. I’ve read all three books and they’re pretty good.

Jack & Jill Turns 70

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM reflects on the significance of the revered organization and why it’s still important today

Then…

During my childhood, I believed that the only black kids who became successful adults were the ones who had grown up in Jack and Jill. No one had actually ever said this to me, but circumstances led me to this rather obnoxious conclusion. When I attended the 1974 Jack and Jill of America, Inc. convention in Los Angeles with my parents, I saw children of the hosting chapter being driven from the affluent hillside neighborhoods of View Park and Baldwin Hills in Cadillacs, Mercedes, and Rolls-Royces with “MD” and “DDS” license plates.

When I was a high school sophomore I met dozens of J&J teenagers at the annual Copacabana Christmas party in Manhattan who had already lined up summer internships on Wall Street. And when I moved into my freshman dormitory at Princeton, I wound up living across the courtyard from three Jack and Jillers, one of whom was the daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. I always had the sense that the J&J kids were not just well-heeled, but that they had life all figured out.

And Now…

This is why I have one answer for black friends who ask me today if they should try to get their kids into Jack and Jill: You’re insane if you don’t.

As a third-generation member of this great 70-year-old institutuion, I have six reasons why parents should want their children to be a part of this invitation-only service organization:

* It exposes them to positive black experiences that build their self-esteem.
* It brings them into a social network that will carry them from childhood to adulthood.
* The J&J “Up the Hill” yearbook creates a great network for their college years.
* You and your kids will get to meet the most accomplished blacks in your city.
* J&J’s charitable and social service programs will teach your kids how to give back to others who are less fortunate.
* It sponsors academic and cultural activities that prepare children for the real world.

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Jack and Jill of America is an organization founded by a group of upper class black mothers in 1938. The idea of the group is to bring children together in a social and cultural environment. Jack and Jill celebrated their 70th anniversary in 2008.

Some black folks have considered Jack & Jill a group for rich black folks, elitist and bougie especially since it’s an invitation only organization. And lets not forget many in the black community swore up and down that upper middle class black families didn’t exist when The Cosby Show made it’s tv debut. I guess in the eyes of the Cosby critics all black folks were living like the Evans family from Good Times. If those critics had done their homework they would have noticed that there were many middle and upper income blacks in the United States during the mid 1980’s.   Middle and upper income black folks didn’t just come into existence during the last 30 years.   They may not have been the majority in the black population but the black middle and upper class have existed for decades going back to the late 1800’s.   Many of these families lived in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, PA, Charleston, SC, Atlanta, GA, New Orleans, LA, Memphis, TN and New York City just to name a few places. If you’re interested in reading more about the history of the black elite you can check out Graham’s Our Kind of People as well as Stephen Birmingham’s Certain People: America’s Black Elite and Willard B. Gatewood’s Aristocrats of Color.

Check out the entire article here. (Article has been removed from the Uptown website)

3 responses

  1. not very many people know anything about this organization. i only came to know of it’s existence in 2010 or so. it’s doubly difficult to find because it shares name with a nursery rhyme that completely hides it on any google search. what few shreds exist about this organization go almost completely unnoticed and it’s 70 years old? btw every link you posted is long since dead.

  2. ELITIST PEOPLE MAKE ME SICK, and so does elitism. People in the so-called talented tenth are no more talented, intelligent, or gifted than the other 9/10ths-they just were lucky to be born into wealthy families and have delusions of grandeur and persecution while the truth is THEY are oppressing broke people. Actually, in my cultural observation, most of the genius in the community actually comes from the LOWER classes, not the upper-think of Stevie Wonder and almost everybody who is a musical great. When I lived in DC and Philadelphia, I noticed a profile with so many brothers-incredibly high intelligence masked by mis-diagnosed or undiagnosed learning issues and depression that was usually self medicated. I am a multiracial offspring of a black/Cherokee pimp and his white employee. I witnessed things as a kid and later Jack and Jill would rather pretend do not exist. I also am a film producer, an artist, a writer, a musician, and though the road up was harder I know a lot more and can use in and create better work. Jack and Jill and everything like it can kiss my booty.

  3. I believe J&J us a good organization, but will have to make sure my children form good bonds elsewhere. I was born in Cali (View Park / Windsor Hills) and now live in MD. My mom was not a member but I was invited to a lot if functions growing up. Now that I’m a mom, I considered the organization for my kids but my friends are not in PG which makes it very hard. But with great parents, education and a good circle if friends I’m sure they will be just fine.

    I enjoyed your blog….. ran across it looking for a store at the Woodmore Towns Center. It is unfortunate to say but I think the center will be fine as long as there isn’t any train or bus service. Too bad we cannot get any shopping beyond Ann Taylor loft and the Gap. I would live a Jcrew or Nordstroms. Prince Georges is losing a lot of tax money to Anne Arundel and Mo. Counties!

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