Major Jackson was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he pursued his degree in accounting at Temple University.
In the late 1990s, he joined the Dark Room Collective, an organization that gave greater visibility to emerging and established writers of color and included Thomas Sayers Ellis, John Keene, Janice Lowe, Carl Phillips, Tracy K. Smith, Sharan Strange, Natasha Trethewey, Artress Bethany White, and Kevin Young, among others.
He is the author of Holding Company (W. W. Norton, 2010) and Hoops (W. W. Norton, 2006), both of which were finalists for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry, as well as Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia, 2002), winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and a finalist for a National Book Critics Award Circle.
He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He also was a creative arts fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the Jack Kerouac Writer-in-Residence at University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Currently, he serves as the poetry editor of the Harvard Review.
Jackson teaches at the Bennington Writing Seminars and University of Vermont, where he is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont.