Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
By Terri A. Holland
Graduate Student, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
The mission of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. seeks to:
- Create a medium of contact for children which will stimulate their growth and development
- Provide constructive educational, cultural, civic, recreation, social and service programs for children
- Aid mothers in learning more about their children by careful study
- Seek for ALL children the same advantages we desire for our own
- Support all national legislation aimed at bettering conditions for children.
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. raises community awareness of the needs of children, concerns within the African American community, and takes action. Through national incentives like health programs and collaborative partnerships with other organizations, local chapters of Jack and Jill make a difference in the lives of their members as well as the communities they serve.
During the 1930s, as the US was going through the Great Depression, the country was shackled by a system of segregation. The system allowed for “separate, but equal” accommodations for African Americans. Under this policy, African Americans were barred from social and cultural activities that integrated them with whites.
While visiting a friend in Brooklyn, Louise Truitt Jackson Dench, a mother in Philadelphia, PA, heard a story that inspired her to organize a group where children could interact socially without the cruelties of segregation. Mrs. Jackson Dench’s friend told her of a Christmas function where some participants had moved to other boroughs and cities. Upon their return for the holidays, many of them had families of their own. While in the area, they all met for a wonderful Christmas party. The story warmed her heart and she thought, “Gee, Philadelphia could enjoy something like that, but I want our group to be a club permanently, not just get-together’s at Christmas.” This program sought to provide recreational activities when they were denied access due to racial segregation (Baker, 2001-p.9).
Mrs. Jackson Dench’s club became a reality when Marion Stubbs Thomas, along with twenty local Philadelphia mothers organized the first chapter of Jack and Jill on January 24, 1938. This group would bring children together through social and cultural activities (Graham, 1999).
As the years passed, chapters emerged in major metropolitan areas. In 1964, the chapters were incorporated under Delaware laws, and many chapters set up by-laws. By 1968, there were 120 chapters in 33 cities, the major cities being Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. Jack and Jill of America, Inc. became a nonprofit family organization with mothers of children between ages 2–19 as its primary membership. With more than 218 local chapters, they hold a number of activities to bring children and families together (Phylon, 1979) (Graham, 1999).
The services provided by Jack and Jill not only benefit the mothers and their families associated with the organization, but they have a profound impact on the African American community. The social functions—debutante balls, volunteer activities, and camps allow for children to interact with one another, share experiences, and serve the larger community. Though Jack and Jill has a predominantly upper and middle class membership, the planning meetings, conference, and scholar programs provide opportunities for members of the working classes to participate with additional benefits of exposing their children to cultural and social development activities (Graham, 1999).
At the time Jack and Jill of America, Inc. was founded, a majority of the activities took place in the homes of the founding members. By doing this, the amount of discrimination the children and their mothers encountered decreased greatly. After the national chapter was formed, the organization initiated an adaptive strategy. They began contributing to public service projects. Making these financial and service contributions reinforced their dedication to services to meet the needs of children.
As the Civil Rights Movement increased momentum, so did Jack and Jill’s efforts in helping African Americans adjust to new political and social changes. Through the work of local chapters in the form of memorial gifts, bequests, and individual gifts, funds were disbursed to organizations such as the NAACP Legal fund, Mental Health, and other groups. As a continuation of the adaptive program, Jack and Jill sponsored programs for urban youth. In collaboration with Howard University, and local Jack and Jill chapters, the Jack Be Quick program served as an educational project designed for young African American and Latino males. The program covered job skills, interpersonal communication, and coping mechanisms. By doing this, young men gained a sense that here is life and a vast array of opportunities outside their “concrete jungle” (Phylon, 1979).
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
Jack and Jill’s direct support of various organizations, as well as the development of its own programming gives the larger society clear evidence of the relationship to the nonprofit sector. Though Jack and Jill is a member serving organization, its programs for youth, mothers, and fathers show the commitment to serving the public. As they receive dues and other fees from members, other events like cotillions, formal fundraising events, and awards banquets, bequests, and individual gifts provide a financial base for services. The local chapters raise money for the support of nursing homes, shelters, hospitals, and educational institutions at both the local and national levels.
Because Jack and Jill of America is very selective on the basis of membership, the organization opens its services to a number of individuals on various levels of socioeconomic status. With these actions, it expands its services to respond to the challenges of providing opportunities for children outside the general membership. Within this effort, minority children are equipped to adapt to a society and are armed with skills to face an uncertain world.
Key Related Ideas
Adaptation – With its inception during segregation, Jack and Jill has created programming to equip children and their families to handle aggressive discrimination. During the Civil Rights Movement and into the 21st century, the initiative shifted to aid minority youth and families to adapt to social and political changes. The organization also prepares them to enter society with skills and to enter the academic and professional world.
Family – The organization emphasizes the role of mothers and fathers in the social, cultural, and educational development of their children. For example, the Father’s Auxiliary provides an outlet for fathers and their children, especially sons, to share in social and emotional mentoring to shape a generation of young men.
Important People Related to the Topic
- Louise Truitt Jackson Dench is considered the creator of the concept of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. The inspiring story told to her by a friend led her to cultivate the idea of a club designed for African American mothers and their children.
- As the National President of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Alice Leigh Peoples continues the long standing tradition established by the founders in building strong families and communities. Her national theme of “Celebrating Our Children, Serving Our Communities, and Honoring Our Culture” is a three-part theme. Celebrating the children in the organization supports the children of the organization who find themselves the minority in their schools and keeping them encouraged. As they Serve, they continue the tireless efforts of local chapter in supporting nonprofit organizations through active service and financially. By teaching African American children that they carry on the legacy of “survivors, strivers, and overcomers”, Jack and Jill enforce that elevation is not just financial, but it is emotionally and socially. Through this they are Honoring their culture as African Americans.
- Marion Turner Stubbs Thomas, the primary founding mother of Jack and Jill of America. It was her desire to ensure that children had the opportunities to have a “graceful approach to a beautiful adulthood” through the programs provided by Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- 100 Black Men of America, Inc. – In “Mentoring the 100 Way,” 100 Black Men of America sponsors programs to meet the social, cultural and emotional needs of African American children age 8-18. In this program they promote positive relationships to build essential skills to move them further in life. (http://www.100blackmen.org/) For futher information, see 100 Black Men of America Learning to Give Briefing Paper.
- African American Youth Cultural Development, Inc. - This organization works with families, faith-based organizations, and community agencies to provide character building, leadership training, and social development to African American children. Many of the children involved with the organization are considered at risk and the programs are designed cultivate relationships to prevent negative outcomes. (http://web.archive.org/web/20050304060230/http://www.aaycd.com/)
- Boys And Girls Club of America – An organization that provides children a safe place to learn and participate in recreational activities. Boys and Girls Club fosters a sense of belonging, usefulness, and competence to those who would otherwise not receive those forms of support anywhere else. (http://www.bgca.org)
- Girls Inc. – a nonprofit organization servicing the needs of American Girls. They focus their programming on girls living in high risk, and underserved communities. This is done by empowering the girls to face life challenges. (http://www.girlsinc.org)
The Foundation Center Learning Lab site, at http://fdncenter.org/learn/topical/african.html, contains information on publications regarding nonprofits among African Americans. It offers tools on locating the various topics relating to the nonprofit sector. The Center’s vast bibliographic database provides additional background information on a large number of topics.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Baker, Adelle W. Jack and Jill of America Incorporated: Into the New Millennium. LBS Publications, 2000. ISBN: 0970270801
Annie S. Barnes. “An Urban Black Voluntary Association.” Phylon (1960- ), Vol. 40, No. 3. (3rd Qtr., 1979), pp. 264-269.
Graham, Lawrence, Our Kind of People: inside Black America’s Upper Class, 1st ed. HarperCollins, 1999. ISBN: 0060183527
Hine, Darlene Clark. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (2 Volumes). Carlson, 1993. ISBN: 0253327768
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. “A Family Organization providing Cultural, Social, Civic, and Recreational Activities to Stimulate and Expand the Mind to Enhance Life.” Accessed 5 October 2004. http://www.jack-and-jill.org.
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