Project Description

Education, Arts & Culture


By: Kenneth Newman

Education has always been a priority for Jackson-Madison County as evidenced by the early settlers seeking educational opportunities for their children upon arrival to this area.  According to tradition, a log schoolhouse was built northwest of Jackson in 1822.  The Jackson Male Academy opened in February 1823, and the Jackson Female Academy was in operation in 1824. Private male and female academies opened in communities some distance from the city–Denmark, and Spring Creek.  Education, it seems, was only available for the “best” families, those who could afford either the private academies or the “subscription” schools common in rural areas.

Madison County public schools began their struggle for existence in 1839 with the State Legislature’s bill in 1838 to establish a state bank in the amount of $100,000 annually for the support of public education; Madison County received $2,176.66 for its population of 3,184 students.  Despite the scarcity of funds, District 1 built a new school for $15.00.  About 40 schools were in existence in 1841.

It was not until 1873, when the new Public-School Law passed, the “poor schools” were abolished and “schools were declared free to all persons between 6 and 21 years of age.”  Thus, the Madison County School System was formed, with B. J. Campbell as Superintendent; the Jackson School System was formed, with J. C. Brook as Superintendent.

Three of Jackson-Madison County’s Colleges had their beginnings in the mid to late 1800’s.  Madison Male Academy, formed in 1834, became Southwestern Baptist University, then becoming Union University.  The Memphis Conference Female Institute began in 1840 and was chartered as Lambuth College in 1924.  The Colored Methodist High School opened in 1882 and became Lane College around 1895.   In 1967, Jackson State Community College joined the ranks of higher education in Jackson-Madison County.

The color of one’s skin stood at the forefront of school systems during the 1950s and 1960s.  After several lawsuits were filed to integrate schools, the end of racial segregation began with Tigrett Junior High School in 1962 and in Madison County in 1966.

In 1989, the city of Jackson and county of Madison voted to consolidate the two school systems, in existence since 1873.  Buddy McMillan became the first Superintendent of the Jackson-Madison County School System.  There were about 24 schools at that time.

Currently, Dr. Marlon King is Superintendent and has had the daunting task of navigating the district through a global pandemic.  Currently, there are 25 schools in the district, with the newest being Jackson Academic STEAM Academy (JASA), a virtual school.  Many innovative opportunities are in place, such as the LOOP Program, which places students in industry while still in high school.  Another is JCM Early College High School, which allows students to receive their associate’s degree along with their high school diploma.

In addition to the public schools of Jackson-Madison County, there are several private schools, as well as a community of home-schooled students.  In the 1860’s, Dominican Sisters began what is now St. Mary’s School.  Old Hickory Academy, incorporated in 1970, became The University School of Jackson in 1987; Jackson Christian, 1976.; Trinity Christian Academy, 1986; Vann Drive Christian Academy, 1999. Augustine School. 2001; Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Family Christian School, 2004.

Indeed, education has always been a priority for the citizens of Jackson-Madison County, and the future of education shines brightly in this Bicentennial year and for the future.


Madison County Sesquicentennial Edition.  The Jackson Sun. Monday, May 29, 1972.

Williams, Emma Inman.  Historic Madison. Madison County Historical Society, 1946.

Arts & Culture

By: Kathy Landon Leatherwood

Jackson/ Madison County has long been rich with art and cultural heritage – from the individual artistic expression 200 years ago to the burgeoning arts scene it is today.  The arts are the aspect of culture that inspires, and that inspiration has been an important factor in defining our history and current day.

When Jackson and Madison County were first established by the legislature, art forms were often combined with functionality.  Quiltmakers, potters, cabinetmakers, basket weavers, metalworkers, and fiber workers, while creating utilitarian products, also had an outlet for artistic expression.  Music was most often performed in churches or at informal gatherings.

The support and participation in the arts evolved in the following years….one of the first notable being the Sunday performances by The Concert Band in Lancaster Park and the McDowell Club, composed of a group of Jackson Pianists.  Significant groundwork for growth occurred in the mid-1900s, with the establishment of several arts organizations, including the Jackson Arts Council, the Jackson Symphony,  Jackson Visual Art Association, and the Jackson Theatre Guild.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the visionaries who created such a strong foundation for our future.

In the early part of this century, the Jackson Arts Council formally recognized arts, cultural, service, and educational organizations that produced arts events by forming the “Jackson Arts Coalition.”  The Arts Coalition reflects a broad array of art forms (Performing Arts, Literary Arts, Visual Arts, and Festivals), and underscore the diversity of the arts and culture of our community.  Many reflect the traditional arts of 200 years ago.  Through the years, the group has flourished.   It is easy to say that our citizens have a deep love for the arts, and it is verified with this impressive compilation of Arts Coalition members from all over Jackson and Madison County.


Art in the Village
Ballet Arts
Casey Jones Barbershop Chorus
Denise LaSalle Blues Academy of Performing Arts
Griot Collective of West Tennessee
Jackson Area Community Band
Jackson Area Music Society (JAMS)
Jackson Area Plectral Society
The Jackson Ballroom Dance Club
The Jackson Choral Society
Jackson International Food and Art Festival
Jackson Photo Club
The Jackson Symphony
The Jackson Symphony League
The Jackson Theatre Guild
Jackson Visual Art Association
Society for African American Cultural Awareness
Southwest TN Woodcarvers
Traditional Skills and Fiberworks Guild
West Tennessee Artisan Trail
West Tennessee Storytellers
West Tennessee Woodturners


African American Book Club
Bemis Mill Village Museum
Big Black Creek Historical Association
Boys and Girls Club of Jackson, Inc.
Carnegie Center for Arts and History
Casey Jones Home and Railroad Museum
Celtic Society of West Tennessee
Delta Sigma Theta – Art Expo
Friends of the Library
Jackson Center for Independent Living
Jackson Downtown Development
Jackson Madison County Library
Jackson Madison County Library Foundation
Keep Jackson Beautiful
Pinson Mounds State Park
Regional Interfaith Association (RIFA)
STAR Center
Visit Jackson, TN
West Tennessee Cultural Heritage Museum


Jackson State Community College
Lane College
Union University
University of Memphis- Lambuth


African Street Festival
Art in the Village Festival
Bagels and Bluegrass Bicycle Century Tour
Jackson International Food and Art Festival

Through the years, many individual artists have gained local, regional… even national recognition.  Kudos to the Jackson/Madison County native poets, painters, actors, sculptors, singers, musicians, fold artists, photographers, authors, jewelers, ceramicists, filmmakers, woodturners, textile artists, metal workers, potters, furniture makers, stained glass artists, designers…. The list goes on.  These organizations and individual artists have filled the air with music, given us untold hours of entertainment through artistic performances, visually impacted our community (including public art sculptures and murals), added beauty to our daily lives, and given us cause and means for celebration!