Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists
Biographical Sketch of Mary Jackson McCrorey, 1869-1944


By Jasmine Rucker, Undergraduate student, Hampton University

Mary Jackson was born in Georgia in 1869 to Alfred and Louise Jackson; she was the Jacksons’ eighth child born, and the first to be born outside of slavery. Alfred and Louise Jackson’s owner, a University of Georgia professor, provided an atypical upbringing by teaching them the fundamentals of reading and writing. Mary Jackson’s life demonstrated an emphasis on education for Jackson not only graduated from Atlanta University, but later took graduate courses at both Harvard University and the University of Chicago. From the late-1880s to the mid-1890s, Jackson taught in both Florida and Georgia. In 1890 she joined Lucy Laney, a fellow Atlanta University graduate, and worked at Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia, serving as the assistant principal until 1916.

In September 1916, Jackson married Henry Lawrence McCrorey, president of Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith) in Charlotte, North Carolina. McCrorey was born on March 2, 1863 in Fairfield County, South Carolina, to Henry and Nancy McCrorey. Mary Jackson McCrorey was McCrorey’s second wife. His first wife, Karie Novella Hughes McCrorey, passed in May 1911. Although Henry McCrorey had children from his first marriage, he and Mary Jackson McCrorey had no children of their own.

Before Biddle University permitted admission to women, Mary Jackson McCrorey worked at the university part-time, but after they began admitting women in 1941, she worked full-time as an advisor to female students and supervisor of the female students’ conduct on campus.

While living in Charlotte, McCrorey became well versed in both social and political movements. She was the chairperson for the Phyllis Wheatley branch of Young Women’s Christian Association for African-Americans from 1916 until 1929. Under this organization, she had to report to the local YWCA, which was a predominantly white organization at this time, so there was a need to find a common ground for the improvement of all women rather than certain races. In 1916, McCrorey also became the president of the African American auxiliary of the Charlotte Associated Charities; she served in this position until 1944. Throughout this time period in her life, Mary McCrorey served on the board of the Bethlehem Center, a settlement house for African-Americans; the Priscilla Art and Literary Club; and various regional and national denominational boards. McCrorey became widely known by many state and national leaders due to her overall activism and her service on the North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation until 1944. Mary Jackson McCrorey was also a corresponding secretary of the International Council of Women of the Darker Races from 1922 to 1944.

Despite her many commitments, McCrorey maintained a heart for education. While she made a failed bid for a seat on the Charlotte School Board, her campaign set an example for many African-American women in local government. In 1941 Benedict College recognized McCrorey for her contributions to African-American education with an honorary Doctor of Pedagogy degree. Three years later, on January 13, 1944, Mary Jackson McCrorey died tragically in a fire in the president’s house—her on-campus home; her funeral was held three days later in the Johnson C. Smith University Church. Mary Jackson McCrorey’s husband, Lawrence, survived her; he passed away on July 13, 1951.

Sources: Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, Afro-American Women of the South and the Advancement of Race, 1895-1925 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991); “McCrorey, Mary Jackson (1869-1944),” in Notable Black American Women, Vol. 2, edited by Jessie Carney Smith (Gale Research, 1996); “Funeral Service of Mary Jackson McCrorey, Wife of President H.L McCrorey: Program of Service for Mary Jackson McCrorey, University Church, January 16, 1944,” Inez Moore Parker Archives, Johnson C. Smith University.


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