Before the Montgomery Bus Boycott …


“In Jacksonville, after the city council in 1901 had passed a bill over the articulated opposition of the Negro community and its two Negro councilmen, colored people angrily stayed off the [street]cars in an attempt to pressure the mayor into vetoing the bill. This boycotting proved futile, as did a similar step by Pensacola Negroes four years later, when they tried to force the city’s streetcar company to lobby against the Avery streetcar-segregation bill, then before the Legislature.”

Source:  “The Boycott Movement Against Jim Crow Streetcars in the South, 1900-1906”  by August Meier and Elliott Rudwick; The Journal of American History Volume 55, Issue 4 (March 1969)   pages 760-761

Jim Crow Enforces Its Own Cuban Embargo

Thanks to President Obama, new attitudes about the Cuban embargo and the growing clout of Cuban millennials, the Cold War policies that kept Americans away from Cuba are changing. Visits to the island nation are now an option, as is the legal purchase of a good Cuban cigar.

Black folk thought so, too. Of course that happened decades before Fidel Castro. In 1939, the Baltimore Afro-American broke an interesting story of racial discrimination. Pan Am Airlines, according to the story, was charging black travelers to Cuba an additional $200. Why? The airline was just doing its part.pan_american_airlines_logo_001-svg

Back then, conventional wisdom was to keep Cuba’s hotels as racially segregated as possible. Thus, the airline came up with the not-so-bright idea of charging black travelers more money to discourage them from visiting Cuba. True story!

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. Bad press and a budding war effort forced Pan-Am to stop  the practice. Pan-Am went on to become the first airline to sign non-discrimination contracts with black-owned travel agencies.

Sources: A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Making of Jim Crow by N.D.B. Connolly University of Chicago Press, 2014 p. 111 and “Cuba Welcomes US Tourists, Blames Airline for Jim Crow” Baltimore Afro-American July 13, 1940; and “Pan American Line Boasts of Race Equality” Chicago Defender Feb. 16, 1946

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A Checkers Speech and A Chance to Get Ahead

In 1908, William B. Sawyer arrived in Miami. A physician who became a wealthy landlord, a hotel owner and a crusader against tuberculosis in South Florida, Sawyer often offered sage advice over one of his favorite pastimes — checkers.the_childrens_museum_of_indianapolis_-_checkers

“In his more quiet moments, Sawyer enjoyed passing the time playing checkers with other men on the front porch of his doctor’s office in Colored Town. Between jumps, according to observers many years later, Sawyer would encourage his friends and neighbors to pool their money, buy land and “become taxpayers.” Sawyer likely explained how owning property allowed colored people to vote in “freeholder” elections. The names of new black deed holders were also printed in the newspaper every year, serving as public recognition of the Negro’s economic discipline.”

Sources: 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. 30; and South Florida’s Black Business Pioneers Paved Way for Others, Miami Herald Jan. 31, 2000

Photo Credit: Black Market

Justice Peggy Quince’s Take on Bush v. Gore


On December 12, 2000, just one day after attorneys made their arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Bush v. Gore, the High Court issued a ruling that made Texas Gov. George W.. Bush. the 43rd president of the United States.

Justice Peggy A. Quince
Justice Peggy A. Quince

Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince and her colleagues had ruled earlier in the controversial election to hold a recount of some of the contested ballots in Florida.

Vice President Al Gore appeared to have the votes to win Florida, but Bush surged ahead in a very close race. The candidate with the most votes would win Florida’s 29 electoral votes and the presidency.

Quince and a majority of her colleagues on the Florida Supreme Court ruled for the recount to ease mounting tensions. However, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the state court decision, ending the count and the election.

“Even though the U.S. Supreme Court eventually overruled what we had said, I’m still very proud of how this Court handled itself. I think we did exactly what courts are required to do. But I also am very proud of the fact that the people of this state and of this country accepted the final product, whether we agree with it or not.”

Source: Florida’s Minority Trailblazers:  The Men and Women Who Changed the Face of Florida Government  by Susan A. MacManus University Press of Florida, 2017 pages 392-393


Howard Thurman’s ‘Drive’ Didn’t Help Him as a Motorist

“I learned to drive an automobile during that first summer, a Hupumobile. After two attempts and two failures, I passed the driver’s exam and secured my license. But, I found it next to impossible to keep my mind on the road when I drove. I would drive all around town in first gear, a trail of exhaust following behind. before long my driving became notorious. No one in his right mind would ride with me. When I took burial ceremonies at the cemetery, cars would line up — all of them full to capacity — while my five passenger car stood empty, save for me, the driver.”

Source: With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman    Harcourt Brace & Co. 1979 p. 56

When Shotgun Shacks Were the Norm in South Florida


“In 1947, wooden shotgun shacks still made up nearly 80 percent of all the homes in [Miami’s] Colored Town. Other kinds of wood construction continued to house black folk through Dade, Broward and Monroe counties.”

Source: A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Making of Jim Crow South Florida by N.D.B. Connolly  University of Chicago Press, 2014 p. 168

Florida Governor Leaves State of the State in a Mess



William Pope DuVal
William Pope DuVal

“In late 1833, William Pope DuVal resigned as governor of Florida. During his twelve years in office, he had turned a territory at peace into a swamp of injustice, ethnic hatred and smoldering violence. He did not intend to be the one in charge when the chickens came home to roost.”

Source: Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman  Grove Press, 2013 p. 138