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

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