Mary McLeod Bethune’s Legacy to Black Women

 

Mary McLeod Bethune
Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune made this day a red-letter date in American history for black women. On December 5, 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) as an “organization of organizations” to represent the concerns of Black women, here in America and abroad.

The NCNW gave black women the chance to realize their aspirations for social justice and human rights as the organization took on job discrimination, barriers to voting rights and fought for anti-lynching laws. Today, the NCNW consists of roughly 36 national African American women’s organizations and more than 230 community and campus based sections.  It’s mission remains to advocate, empower and lead nearly three million women , their  families and communities.

Bethune, of course, was a noted educator, founder of Bethune Cookman College, and perhaps the most influential black woman of her time. The NCNW is just one of the many accomplishments that are part of Bethune’s rich legacy.

Photo Credit: Carl Van Vechten

 

Florida Congressman Speaks in Support of Civil Rights

Josiah T. Walls
Josiah T. Walls

“Men may concede that public sentiment, and not law, is the cause of the discrimination of which we justly complain and the resultant disabilities under which we labor. If this be so, then such public sentiment needs penal correction, and should be regulated by law. Let it be decidedly understood, by appropriate enactment, that the individual rights, privileges, and immunities of the citizens, irrespective of color, to all facilities afforded by corporations, licensed establishments, common carriers, and institutions supported by the public, are sacred, under the law, and that violations of the same will entail punishment safe and certain. We will then hear no more of a public sentiment that feeds upon the remnants of the rotten dogmas of the past, and seeks a vitality in the exercise of a tyranny both cheap and unmanly.” — Florida Congressman Josiah T. Walls addressing the Civil Rights Act of 1875

Source: Neglected Voices, New York University School of Law

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Miami’s ‘Colored Town’ a Henry Flagler Creation

Henry M. Flagler
Henry M. Flagler

“Colored Town stood as an invention of Henry Flagler. Initially white and colored workers lived together on the grounds of Flagler’s Royal Palm Hotel during its construction.  But once workers completed the project, Flagler bought a separate tract of land on which his colored workers could build their own homes. Black workers bought bought 50-by-150 foot lots of uncleared land from Flagler at a cost of fifty dollars each. Flagler also donated a plot of land to every religious denomination represented among Miami’s colored people. Cobbled together, these lots would make up Colored Town, with Flagler’s railroad tracks on the eastern edge of the black district, serving as the first and longest lasting boundary between colored and white Miami.”

Source: A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida  by N.D.B. Connolly  The University of Chicago Press 2014 p. 26

Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons

 

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