Mark your calendars. The second stop of the “Florida Black Historic Marker Tour” summertime road trip is coming up soon. Check back here at www.blackinfla.com on Thursday, June 22 to see our next black historic destination. Check it out. You’ll enjoy the ride and might learn something. — Douglas C. Lyons
DELRAY BEACH — Welcome to South Florida and the ‘Village by the Sea,” the first stop of our summer “Florida Black Historic Marker Tour.”
The state of Florida has about 800 historic markers to honor homes, businesses and community landmarks that are a part of Sunshine State history. Many of those markers describe the contributions black Floridians have made to the state’s development.
My goal is to visit as many of them as I can.
I hate to admit this, but I discovered my first stop by accident. I was headed to my neighborhood soul-food joint in Delray Beach, Donnie’s Place. The restaurant is located in the West Settlers Historic District, the site of the city’s first African American community.
The West Settlers Historic District received local historic designation in 1997 and today remains in the hub of Delray Beach’s black community. Northwest 5th Avenue is the district’s cultural focal point. It’s home to The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, the former home of Solomon D. Spady, one of the city’s most influential African Americans.
The area hasn’t seen the development and re-gentrification hat has taken place in other in-town neighborhoods. Unlike some other iconic black areas in Florida, the West Settlers Historic District remains predominantly black community.
The black historic district in Delray Beach is just one of many historic attractions that tell the story of black achievement in the Sunshine State. Give credit to the Florida Department of State and the many local community organizations and county and municipal governments for stepping up and deciding to preserve Florida’s black history.
The next destination is in another part of the state and tells a compelling story about Florida’s remarkable black history. It’s a far cry from trendy Delray Beach. Stay tuned.
Douglas C. Lyons is the founder of www.blackinfla.com.
Accessibility: Easy. Take the Atlantic Avenue exit off Interstate 95 east to N.W. 5th Avenue. Turn left, and you’re in the West Settlers Historic District.
Tomorrow is the day! We begin our summer road trip through Florida history on www.blackinfla.com., and the question is: Where should we start?
How about Jacksonville, a town that once was the South’s most progressive black community? Or St. Augustine, home of Florida’s first settlement for runaway slaves? Or Key West, a sanctuary city long before Americans ever knew about the term? Check back to see where we begin and follow us on this unique tour. You’ll enjoy the ride and might learn something. — Douglas C. Lyons
Mark your calendars. The summer road trip through Florida history starts here at www.blackinfla.com on Thursday, June 8th. Check back to see where we begin and follow us on this unique tour. You’ll enjoy the ride and might learn something. — Douglas C. Lyons
“In February of 1739, Florida Governor Manuel de Montana built a coastal fortress a few miles north of St. Augustine. He invited free blacks to populate it; Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, more commonly known as Fort Mose, was the first free black community in North America.
Spain did its best to make Fort Mose attractive to Africans. Seed and tools for farming were provided, and food was sent in until the first crops could be raised. There was a priest assigned to the fort for religious instruction. Cannons were placed on the ramparts. Muskets were issued to men who wanted them, and most did. The only obligation placed on the Africans living there was to help defend Florida against invaders.
Word about Fort Mose spread quickly to slaves in the southern British colonies. The colonists and the English army personnel stationed in the southern regions of the American colonies decided they only had one option — to invade Florida, destroy St. Augustine and Fort Mose, and, hopefully, drive out the Spanish colonists forever. All they needed was an excuse.”