Jesse Jackson’s Granddaughter Fights Blackface Racism at Her High School On Instagram

Skye Jackson says it was normal for students to be in blackface.

The granddaughter of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson is speaking out about the rampant racism that she says plagues the elite boarding school she attends in Alexandria, Va. 

Skye Jackson, 17, is a senior at  Episcopal High School, where she serves as co-president of the Black Student Association and president of the Spectrum diversity club, Yahoo reports. While she considers the school an academic “rock,” Jackson has had to take action against the atmosphere of racism that is fostered by both faculty and staff members. 

The teenager and her best friend, Amy John-Terry, created an Instagram account in June called Black at EHS (@blackatehs). The goal of the account is to inspire change at the high school by calling on “Back students, alumni and teachers to share their experiences with the goal of improving EHS.” Since its launch on June 17, the account has received over 100 posts.

“The first two to three days, we received about 15 racist and fake submissions to demean the page. And that was extremely upsetting because ... the things that we're talking about on the page are not personal to anyone; it's really just so that the administration can change,” Jackson told Yahoo Life.

“Our school was founded in 1839. ... Our school has deep roots in slavery, Jim Crow … the KKK, a lot of different Southern Confederate roots,” she says. “Many times, it was just normal for students to be in blackface … at school events, and no teachers, no administrations, no faculty, no staff … would say something. And if there were those couple of faculty and staff members who would say something, nothing was done about it.”

Being mixed race has also presented challenges for Jackson, citing microaggressions “about my hair,” as well as “assumptions made about me based on my culture, based on being mixed race ... and that needs to change.”

Jackson said her IG page has received support from “alumni, a few teachers and faculty members.” But when it comes to her white peers, many of them are supporters privately but are hesitant to speak out against racism publicly. 

“If they don't say it publicly, how do other people know that they're allies too?,”  Jackson states. 

Charley Stillwell, Head of School at Episcopal High School, said in a statement to Yahoo Life that he is “grieved” by the testimonials on Black at EHS. 

“The strength of our community is important to us, and it is clear that Episcopal has fallen short of our ideals and our mission far too often,” Stillwell said. “At times, racism expressed through both words and actions has been hurtful to our Black students. We regret deeply that we did not do more to recognize and stand up to such racism and prejudice, and we are committed to becoming a community that is free of racism.”

Meanwhile, Black students across the country have been using Instagram to detail what it is like to be 'Black at' private high schools. 

Many of the posts speak of racial slurs used and hostile classroom environments. Students and faculty who use hateful and divisive language often see little to no consequences.

As noted by, these “Black At” Instagram accounts, like Black at Harvard Law and Black at Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey (Black at MBS) allow students to anonymously share racist experiences with the hope of eliciting change. 

Chenelle Jones and Jada Howard, account owners of the "BlackatDeerfieldofficial" IG page for the academy in Massachusetts note that Black alumni "understand the pain echoing through the accounts."

These accounts also signal how students across the nation are uniting thought commons themes of racism and white supremacy and are mobilizing to bring change. 

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