“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” — Zora Neale Hurston
By Douglas C. Lyons
New years always bring changes. For many blacks, 2017 brings a sense of dread with the incoming Trump administration threatening to undo much of the progress made in government under President Barack Obama.
Imagine the fear 94 years ago on New Years Day when the 200 residents of Rosewood were chased out of their homes by an angry mob of white men who believed that a white woman in nearby Sumner had been attacked by a black man. Many blacks believed the story was a lie to cover up a beatdown the woman received from her white boyfriend.
The facts, of course, never deterred a racist mob. At least six blacks were killed and the mob destroyed the frame houses, churches and a meeting hall that made up Rosewood, located 10 miles east of Cedar Key in rural Levy County.
Rosewood wasn’t the only black community in the 1920s to experience this type of bloodbath. However, it was the only black community that mob violence completely destroyed.
All that’s left are open fields a few bricks, a historic marker and the house of John Wright, one of the few whites that tried to help black residents during the violence. Fortunately, this historic tragedy was remembered. There was a movie and in 1994, the Florida Legislature approved a bill that Gov. Lawton Chiles signed into law that compensates survivors and their descendants of the massacre.
Source: African American Sites in Florida by Kevin M. McCarthy Pineapple Press, Inc., 2007 p. 134
Photo Credit: Florida State Archives
“[Miami’s] Colored Town grew out of both the Caribbean Basin and the American South. And at no time was this more evident than at midnight New Year’s morning. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, those celebrating in bars or hotels and those attending reverent midnight masses at nearby Catholic, Episcopal and Anglican churches would empty into Colored Town’s streets as it wrenched to life with the Junkanoo Parade …”
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. 101
By Douglas C. Lyons
The late Carlton B. Moore, a civil-rights activist turned city commissioner in Fort Lauderdale, once gave a talk that I’m sure escaped notice.
This was no speech before a huge audience that warranted media coverage. This was simply brief remarks to Moore’s core constituents — a gathering of residents of Northwest Fort Lauderdale and a smattering of black professionals who come and go through the city’s historic black neighborhood.
To be honest, I don’t recall the exact location or time of Moore’s remarks. I do, however, remember his message: black folk need to support their institutions.
For Moore, the point was easy to make. He grew up in the NAACP, ultimately becoming the president of the Fort Lauderdale chapter and transforming the branch into a vehicle to fight racial discrimination and rebuild communities. Moore knew something about strength in numbers and the power of organizations; he had lived it.
It’s a lesson black America must take into 2017. History teaches us that blacks in Florida, the South and across America survived and thrived in the harshest of times through business leagues, civil rights groups, the church and secret societies. They put their heart, soul, time and money into these organizations to achieve a far greater good. That was the essence of Moore’s message.
We should support our institutions, and others, that support us moving forward.
Editor’s Note: Lyons is the creator of www.blackinfla.com.
Photo Credit: City of Fort Lauderdale
“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” — Zora Neale Hurston
“It’s no disgrace to be black, but it’s often very inconvenient.” — James Weldon Johnson
Who among us has the courage of Harry Tyson Moore, a Florida schoolteacher turned activist who became the first martyr of the Civil Rights Movement? True commitment to a worthy cause comes with a price, a cost Moore paid dearly.
At 10:20 p.m. on Christmas Day, 1951, a bomb planted under Moore’s home in Mims, Fla., exploded, ending the lives of Moore and his wife of 25 years, Harriette, who died from her wounds a week later.
Moore was the Florida coordinator of the NAACP, crisscrossing the backroads of the Sunshine State in the 1940s to educate and organize black people. Investigating lynchings, registering black voters, writing letters of protest to state officials — all in the face of intense bigotry and personal danger — Moore blazed a trail as a civil rights leader long before the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X or Medgar Evers came to national attention.
To date, no one has been convicted for the crime.
Source: Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr by Ben Green 2005 The University Press of Florida
“As a boy growing up in Daytona, I was of course familiar with how Mary McLeod Bethune started her school and I knew the mission she felt she was fulfilling. Very often she would come to our church, usually on the fifth Sunday night, and she would talk of her dreams for Negro youth. Often she would sing a solo Always the congregation gave her collection for her work …” — Howard Thurman
Source: With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman Harcourt Brace & Co. 1979 p. 23
Photo Credit: Carl Van Vechten
“Back in 1982, when the Economist reported that ‘Miami is not a good city in which to be black,’ the local Chamber of Commerce reacted with anger and amazement. But the truth is that Florida, including Miami, seldom if ever has been a good place to be black.”
Source: City of the Future by T.D. Allman University Press of Florida, 1987 p. 144
Photo Credit: Dan Christensen
“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