AME Minister Turns Setback into Success

 

Bishop Morris Marcellus MooreMorris Marcellus Moore (left) lived a life of courage, determination and love for black Floridians. He died on November 23, 1900 at his Jacksonville home. Fortunately, the African Methodist Episcopal bishop knew how to live, inspiring and touching the lives of many he touched through his ministry.

Moore, a native Floridian from Quincy, became a preacher and rose through the ranks of the AME church to become a prominent minister. During the Reconstruction period, however, it was his involvement with his congregation that got him in trouble with Daniel A. Payne, an AME bishop who had successfully organized the church’s missionary work in the South.

Payne stressed education and high morals, but was dubious about the AME church getting too involved in the racial politics that was so prevalent in Florida and other southern states.  Moore, along with several other ministers in the AME Florida conference, felt otherwise. For that, Moore was fired in 1886.

Fortunately, for Florida and the AME church, Moore didn’t settle for the setback. In 1900, he was elected bishop of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ironically, Moore was the second black Floridian to serve as a bishop representing Sierra Leone. His predecessor was Bishop Abram Grant, who founded the AME’s Liberian Conference after serving as a county commissioner in DuVal County.

Sources: “Florida’s African Connections in the Nineteenth Century” by Canter Brown Jr. and Larry Eugene Rivers from Africa in Florida: Five Hundred Years of African Presence in the Sunshine State;  edited by Amanda B. Carlson and Robin Poynor University Press of Florida 2014  p. 169; and Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord: The Beginnings of the AME Church in Florida, 1865-1895 by Larry Eugene Rivers and Canter Brown Jr. University Press of Florida 2001 p. 146-147

Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

A Sad Day in Gainesville Draws Ire

 

“No colored man can read an account of the recent lynching at Gainesville, Fla., without being ashamed of his people … Without resistance they let a white mob whom they outnumbered two to one, torture, harry and murder their women, shoot down innocent men entirely unconnected with the alleged crime, and finally cap the climax, they caught and surrendered the wretched man whose attempted arrest caused the difficulty. No people who behave with the absolute cowardice shown by these colored people can hope to have the sympathy or help of civilized folk… In the last analysis, lynching of Negroes is going to stop in the South when the cowardly mob is faced by effective guns in the hands of people to sell their souls dearly.”

— 1916 editorial in The Crisis excoriating blacks for submitting to a lynch mob

Sources: Negroes and The Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms  by Nicholas Johnson  Prometheus Books 2014 pages 153-154; and W.E.B. DuBois, Crisis, October 1916 at 270-271

Remembering Harry T. Moore

 

 

On November 18, 1905, Harry T. Moore was born in Houston, a tiny rural farming community in the Florida Panhandle. Life was hard. His father died at an early age and young Harry was sent to live with aunts for a chance at a better life.

Harry T. Moore
Harry T. Moore

Education would be Moore’s path to success, that and a pamphlet from the NAACP. Moore was already a respected teacher and principal in Brevard County when a cousin gave Moore some brochures from the civil rights organization. Organizing an NAACP chapter in the deep South was risky, to say the least.

Moore didn’t flinch.

“In the eight years that he had been in Brevard County, Harry T. Moore had been biding his time, building a family and teaching career, and waiting for the right moment to get involved. Waiting for this. He would begin with the issue he knew best — education — but would soon be battling on political fronts he had never foreseen.”

Source: Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr by Ben Green  University Press of Florida, 2005 p. 32

 

Seeking Serenity? Try Mizell-Johnson State Park

 

Walkway leading to the beach at Mizell-Johnson State Park
Walkway leading to the beach at Mizell-Johnson State Park

I’m not sure if people living in the Fort Lauderdale area realize what a treasure they have in the Mizell-Johnson State Park. Many probably won’t recognize the park’s name.

Say John U. Lloyd Park, and perhaps, you’ll see a glint of recognition.

Von D. Mizell was a prominent black physician and founder of the local NAACP chapter. Eula Johnson was a businesswoman who owned several gas stations and became NAACP chapter president. Both worked to change the Jim Crow laws that kept blacks and whites separate.

On July 4, 1961, they led a “wade-in” protest at Fort Lauderdale’s “whites-only” public beach. The one that is now the economic engine and tourist attraction.

In their honor, the one-time blacks-only beach was renamed after Mizell and Johnson. Three pavilions have also been renamed to honor other black dignitaries in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Regardless of the name change, the park is a beautiful locale and a nice alternative to the city’s more popular — and heavily used — beach.

Yes, the Fort Lauderdale beach along A1A and Las Olas Boulevard is free, and there’s a cost to get into Mizell-Johnson. It is a state park after all.

Looking north along Mizell-Johnson State Park
Looking north along Mizell-Johnson State Park    convenient and inexpensive place to park. Try negotiating space on the beach itself after you crossed traffic to even get to the sand and shore.

The  irony is hard to miss. The one time “all-white” beach and cultural attraction for Fort Lauderdale can be a experience of sand, shore and crowd control. The more serene historic “all-black” beach in Dania Beach is the real  jewel.

In place of the congestion that comes with a tourist-trap strip, Mizell-Johnson State Park offers a very pleasant shoreline, park amenities and tranquility. If you’re looking for serenity in South Florida, I can’t think of a better spot to find it.

Photo Credits: Doug Lyons

 

Sunshine State Cruelty

“Florida went farther than some other slave states in the creativity of its repression: slaves could not gather to pray. They couldn’t leave their plantation, even for a walk, without written permission by their owner. If they were accused of wrongdoing, ‘their hands were burned with a heated iron, their ears nailed to posts,’ or their backs stripped raw with seventy-five lashes from a buckskin whip. The few free blacks in the state had to register with the nearest probate court or could automatically be enslaved by any white person who stepped forward to claim possession.”

Source: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson Random House 2010 p. 58

Give Me That Ol’ Time Religion

Who was Florida’s first black minister, and where was Florida’s first regularly organized black church? It’s not the typical question answered in most history books. But, as good fortune would have it, the answer can be found right here.

qtq80-ylZbSPJames Page was a slave born in 1808 in Virginia. Page’s owner, Col. John Parkhill, brought Page and his wife to Leon County, Florida thirty years later. It was Parkhill who encouraged Page to take up the ministry. In 1851, Page was ordained by a white Baptist minister in Newport and became a Florida first. After the ordination, Parkhill gave Page the land to build the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, the state’s first regularly organized black church.

In 1867, Page would become a Leon County delegate to the Republican Convention. A year later, he served as legislative chaplain of the Florida Senate. He also served on the Leon County Commission and was later appointed as the county’s Justice of the Peace.

Source: Wikipedia: The Free Encylopedia

Photo Credit: Stock Photo

Happy Birthday Corrine Brown

 

On November 11, 1946, Corrine Brown was born in Jacksonville. She would go on to become an elected official representing that part of the state, first in the Florida Legislature and then more than two decades in the U.S. Congress.

Brown graduated from Florida A&M University, and she received a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Florida. In the Congress, she served as an advocate for improved veterans programs and several public works in projects, including the expansion and dredging of the Port of Jacksonville.

Brown
Brown

Throughout Brown’s long political career, both in the state legislature and in Washington, she has been recognized as a fighter on behalf of her constituents and colleagues. She aptly fit the mantra that marked her many campaigns: “Corrine Delivers.” As a lawmaker, she brought hundreds of millions of federal dollars back to communities throughout her district and the state of Florida.

Brown’s tenure as a public servant though was laced with controversy. She was recently indicted as she sought her 13th term in office. She lost her primary to former state Sen. Al Lawson, a popular politician from the western edge of her newly redrawn congressional district.

Sources: Office of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Florida: A Haven and Unwanted Harbor

‘By the 1780s, Florida was home to Spanish speaking Africans, fugitive slaves from the colonies and indigenous and migrated Indian tribes, including the Seminoles. Fugitive slaves established maroon settlements in Spanish Florida with names like ‘Disturb Me If You Dare’ and ‘Try Me If You Be Men.’ By 1819, when the United States purchased Florida from Spain, General Andrew Jackson commented that the transaction had finally closed ‘this perpetual harbor for our slaves’.”

Source: Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms by Nicholas Johnson, 2014, Prometheus Books p. 128

Prophetic Quote from Florida’s Own

 

 

“Look for the enemies of Medicare, of higher minimum wages, of Social Security, of federal aid to education and there you will find the enemy of the Negro, the coalition of Dixiecrats and reactionary Republicans that seek to dominate the Congress.”  — A. Phillip Randolph during his 1963 March on Washington speech