Let’s Do a Better Job Cherishing Florida’s Black History


By Douglas C. Lyons

Douglas C. Lyons

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. I had the chance to celebrate my very own Black History Month moment this February. I wish others could have that same experience.

My aunt, Juanita Lark, was the first black graduate of Goshen College, and the school decided to honor her this month by renaming its welcoming center the “Juanita Lark Welcome Center.” My family thought that was pretty cool, especially for a predominantly white school in Indiana.

My aunt graduated in 1943. She was pretty much by herself as the only “Negro” in a Mennonite college located in rural Goshen, Indiana. I can’t imagine doing what my aunt did — leaving Washington, D.C. for a college education in a very far away place and a very different culture.

But, my aunt did, and went on to establish a successful teaching career in the city of Chicago. Members of my family enjoyed the celebration, and it was just that — a celebration.

My wish for black folk in Florida is to learn and cherish their state’s rich cultural roots. Bowlegs, Harry T. Moore, James Weldon Johnson, T. Thomas Fortune, Josiah Walls and Daniel “Chappie’ James are just a few of the black Floridians who grace our nation’s history books but whose accomplishments risk being lost to history. Shouldn’t happen, folks.

There’s more to Florida’s Black history than what many residents in the Sunshine State see or know.  Let’s do better in cherishing it next February.

Douglas C. Lyons is the founder of www.blackinfla.com.


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