Dirty Politics — 19th Century Style

“… demonizing [Josiah] Walls as both a Northerner and a product of miscegenation served a doable purpose. It robbed Florida’s black people of a hero. It sustained whites in their illusion that half-breeds and Yankees caused all that trouble.”

Source: Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman  Grove Press, 2013 p. 262

A Piece of Florida History Hangs Tough

To the north stands the Summer Beach resort, a 450-acre complex that includes homes and a Ritz Carlton Hotel, with seven condominium buildings under construction. To the south is the Amelia Island Plantation, a 1,330 acre resort and residential community that is opening a hotel and building two condominium buildings with plans for more single-family homes. Sandwiched between the cranes that hover over the multi-million projects, where home prices range from $200,000 to more than $4 million, is American Beach, a vestige of the segregationist past, a place whose unique character many of its residents want to save.

‘We’re the only remaining African American coastal community in the state,” said Annette M. Myers, president of the American Beach Property Owners Association. “The property owners feel history should be preserved.

Sources: Fernandina  Beach Journal: A Black Beach Town Fights to Preserve Its History and The New York Times April 6, 1998

When Jacksonville Was the Mecca of Black America

 

“I was impressed with the fact that everywhere there was a rise in the level of the Negro’s morale. The exodus of Negroes to the North was in full motion; the tremors of the war in Europe were shaking America with increasing intensity; circumstances were combining to put a higher premium on Negro muscle, Negro hands, and Negro brains than ever before; all these forces had a quickening effect that was running through the entire mass of the race.”

Source: Along This Way: The Autobiography of James Weldon Johnson  New York: Viking, 1933 p. 35

Celebrate the Holiday with an Iconic American Beach Dish

 

 

Pig's feet at MŽmre Paulette.
Pig’s feet at MŽmre Paulette.

Happy Thanksgiving. In honor of the holiday and Florida’s rich black history, here’s an iconic Florida recipe befitting the state and season — barbecue pig feet.

Samuel “Shorty” Thompson was a cook in the U.S. Navy. He served Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Grace of Monaco. In the 1970s, he was a popular fixture at many of the picnics and tailgate party along Florida’s American Beach. For those who want to garnish their dinner tables with something special, the recipe:

12 pig feet split in half lengthwise and well washed

2 cups of vinegar

2 tbsp. of salt

1 tbsp. of pepper

Sauce:

1 quart of catsup

1 pint of mustard

1 tbsp. of salt

1/4 cup of red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. of chili powder

1 tbsp. of garlic powder

1/4 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of vinegar

Place pig feet in a boiling pot with enough water to cover the meat. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper and bring to a full boil. Cook at moderate temperature for 2 hours. While the meat cooks, mix ingredients for the sauce.

After the pig feet have boiled remove them from the pot. Coat each foot completely in the barbecue sauce and place each coated foot in a large roasting pan. Bake at 300 degrees for an hour, and baste frequently while baking.

Source: An American Beach for African Americans by Marsha Dean Phelts  University Press of Florida 1997 pages 160-161

Photo Credit: Neil Conway

 

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