Jessica Jackson specializes in immigration history, late-19th/early 20th centuries U.S. history, southern/Louisiana history, race and citizenship studies, and social studies education. Her first book, Dixie’s Italians: Sicilians, Race, and Citizenship in the Jim Crow Gulf South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2020), which was a co-winner of the Italian American Studies Association Best Book Award in 2020, looks at the racial experience of Sicilians in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama at the turn-of-the-century. Through a series of historical case studies, Jackson investigates the lynchings of Sicilians/Italians in Louisiana and Mississippi between 1886-1901, the impact of disenfranchisement efforts upon Sicilians/Italians in 1890s Louisiana, attempts to segregate Sicilian children from a “white” school in 1907 Mississippi, and the inconsistent way that Sicilians and other Italians were racially categorized within turn-of-the-century miscegenation disputes in Louisiana and Alabama. Bridging the previously disconnected fields of immigration history, southern history, and modern Italian history, Jackson expands scholarship on the immigrant experience in the American South and explorations of the gray area within the traditionally black/white narrative.
Jackson’s new book project is a history of immigrants and anti-immigrant lynching violence in Colorado, specifically recovering the experiences and legacies of Italian, Mexican, and Chinese immigrants from the 1890s to the 1920s. In this research, she considers: What does this history tell us about the way race and citizenship were constructed in the legal borderlands of late-19th/early-20th century Colorado? What does this reveal about identity, language, and subjecthood? And ultimately, how do the legacies of immigration (and anti-immigrant violence) impact descendant communities, family histories, and current debates on immigration here in Colorado today?
With 10 years of secondary teaching experience, Jackson also oversees the Department of History’s Social Studies Teaching (SST) undergraduate concentration. She regularly teaches EDUC465: Social Studies Methods & Materials and is committed to teacher education, educational equity, and inclusive and culturally responsive/sustaining pedagogies. She is an affiliate of the Race and Intersectional Studies in Educational Equity (RISE) Center and the Center for Educator Preparation (CEP).