Troy Demps and African-American Hymn Lining

Hymn liner Troy Demps (left) and apprentice Brian Wright: Orlando (1995)

Hymn liner Troy Demps (left) and apprentice Brian Wright: Orlando (1995)

In recognition of Black History Month, we will highlight the uniquely African-American tradition of hymn lining.

The practice of lining hymns can be traced back to the 17th century when printed hymnals were scarce and many churchgoers—both slaves and whites—could not read.

A church elder or minister who could read would “line out,” or recite a hymn line by line, which in turn was repeated by the congregation. These hymns, such as “Amazing Grace” or “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” persisted and evolved in African-American churches after emancipation.

As Deacon at the Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, Troy Demps continues to practice hymn lining, and believes there is a more focused connection with the Holy Spirit among the congregation when the hymnal is set aside. Through the Florida Department of State’s Folklife Apprenticeship Program, he taught hymn lining in order to preserve the tradition and was awarded the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 2003.

This podcast features performances from Troy Demps and his apprentices at the Florida Folk Festival as well as a 1995 interview with folklorist Bob Stone.
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/mp3/podcasts/demps.mp3|titles=Troy Demps and African-American Hymn Lining|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3

Mary McLeod Bethune

Educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina. Mary was one of 16 children born to former slaves Samuel and Patsy McIntosh McLeod.

Birthplace of Mary McLeod Bethune: Mayesville, South Carolina (late 1800s)

Birthplace of Mary McLeod Bethune: Mayesville, South Carolina (late 1800s)

After completing her studies at the Moody Bible Institute, Bethune moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1904 to start her own school. She taught reading, writing and home economics to African-American girls in a one-room schoolhouse. Bethune’s modest school eventually became the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls.

Mary McLeod Bethune with a line of girls from her school: Daytona Beach, Florida (ca. 1905)

Mary McLeod Bethune with a line of girls from her school: Daytona Beach, Florida (ca. 1905)

In 1931, the institution started by Mary McLeod Bethune became Bethune-Cookman College. Learn more about the life and achievements of Mary McLeod Bethune, including the founding of Bethune-Cookman College and her impact on civil rights, on Florida Memory.

Mary McLeod Bethune (ca. 1904)

Mary McLeod Bethune (ca. 1904)

UPDATE: On Tuesday, February 28, 2012, Governor Rick Scott announced the first inductees into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame: Mary McLeod Bethune, Claude Denson Pepper and Charles Kenzie Steele. Established by the Florida Legislature in 2010, the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who made significant contributions in furthering civil rights for all Floridians.

Jacksonville Comedy

Motion picture scene
Motion picture scene from "Strangled Harmony"
Portrait of actor Oliver Hardy

You might not think of the words Jacksonville and comedy together. But in the early years of American movies, Jacksonville, Florida, experienced a brief turn in the spotlight as one of the hubs for filmmaking on the east coast.

The Vim Comedy Company, based in Jacksonville and New York, was one of several film studios operating in the Jacksonville area in the first three decades of the 20th century. Before going out of business in 1917, it employed such stars as Oliver “Babe” Hardy, Ethel Burton, Walter Stull, and Kate Price, as well as Swedish-born director Arvid Gillstrom.

Oliver Hardy began his film career and rise to international fame in Jacksonville, first at the Lubin studio, then with Vim and his own production company, and finally with the King Bee studio, which took over Vim after its repeated financial troubles.

Hardy, Price, and many of the other Jacksonville actors made permanent moves to Hollywood soon after the political atmosphere in Jacksonville turned against the movie industry due to accusations of fraud, ties to political corruption, and fear of endangering the public welfare with elaborate stunt sequences staged without city approval. The film Bouncing Baby shows stunts shot in the streets of Jacksonville.

In a recent episode of the TV show Downton Abbey, Mrs. Hughes was surprised that Carson knew who Theda Bara was. Who was Theda Bara and what was her connection to Florida?

Presidents’ Day

United States presidents have campaigned, vacationed and even served in the military while in Florida. Here are a few of our favorite shots of the chief executive in the Sunshine State.

Theodore Roosevelt, far right, and other top ranking officials of the 1st U.S. Voluteer Cavalry: Tampa (1898)

Theodore Roosevelt, far right, and other top ranking officials of the 1st U.S. Voluteer Cavalry: Tampa (1898)


President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard train: Jacksonville (1943 or 1944)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard train: Jacksonville (1943 or 1944)


Dwight D. Eisenhower landing a grouper (1946)

Dwight D. Eisenhower landing a grouper (1946)


Harry S. Truman receiving fresh fruit from Florida Highway patrolmen: Key West (March 1949)

Harry S. Truman receiving fresh fruit from Florida Highway patrolmen: Key West (March 1949)


John F. Kennedy, with Senator George Smathers, greeting crowds in Miami (November 18, 1963)

John F. Kennedy, with Senator George Smathers, greeting crowds in Miami (November 18, 1963)

Found a great photo of a U.S. President in Florida that we missed? Post your favorite image in the comments.

Florida Seminoles and Musa Isle

Three Seminole medicine men: Musa Isle, Miami, Florida, ca. late 1910s

Three Seminole medicine men: Musa Isle, Miami, Florida, ca. late 1910s

The above photograph was taken in the late 1910s or early 1920s at Musa Isle, near Miami, Florida. The individuals in the photograph are described as “medicine men,” but are otherwise unidentified in the catalog record from the State Archives of Florida.

Musa Isle was a tourist attraction started by John Roop in 1907 on property he purchased on the Miami River from A. J. Richardson. In 1919, Roop leased a section of his property to a Seminole man named Willie Willie. Willie Willie and his father, Charlie Willie, operated a trading post west of Miami. They brought animal commodities to Musa Isle and sold them directly to wholesalers.

Read more »

Will McLean Podcast

Will McLean Podcast

Will McLean of Tallahassee at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs, Florida

Will McLean of Tallahassee at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs, Florida

The music of Will McLean has been recorded and performed by dozens of artists, proving “The Father of Florida Folk” was not just a nickname for this prolific songwriter. His classic portrayals of Florida’s people and landscapes through songs such as “Seminole,” “Osceola’s Last Words,” and “Florida Sand” are still sung today, and every year, festival participants gather on the main stage for a grand finale of “Hold Back the Waters” to close out the Florida Folk Festival.

Born near Chipley, McLean spent his life traveling and writing songs inspired by his experiences in and love for the Sunshine State. He wrote his first song, “Away O’ee,” at the age of six, and went on to compose over 3,000 more songs and stories before his death in 1990. Will McLean received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1989, and in 1996 he was inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame. His legacy continues through the Will McLean Foundation as well as an annual folk festival bearing his name.

The Florida Folklife Collection contains thousands of audio recordings from the 1930s to the present. These recordings include festival performances, fieldwork and radio programming from across the state. Every month focuses on an artist, genre, tradition or event in our monthly podcast series.

Please enjoy this month’s podcast featuring highlights from Will McLean’s appearances at the Florida Folk Festival.

[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/mp3/podcasts/willmclean.mp3|titles=Will McLean Podcast|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3

Patricia Stephens Due (December 9, 1939 – February 7, 2012)

Patricia Stephens Due at Civil rights demonstration in front of segregated theater: Tallahassee, Florida (1963)

Patricia Stephens Due at a civil rights demonstration in front of a segregated theater: Tallahassee, Florida (1963)

Civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due passed away on Tuesday, February 7, at the age of 72.

Due, a native of Quincy, Florida, led demonstrations and voter-registration drives in Tallahassee during the height of the Civil Rights movement. She was among a group of students from Florida A&M University jailed for attempting to integrate a segregated lunch counter at a Woolworth’s department store in downtown Tallahassee on February 20, 1960.

Due and 8 of her companions from the Woolworth’s sit-in refused to pay a $300 fine, opting instead to serve jail time. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized their determination in the struggle for civil rights and sent letters to the jail. Other civil rights leaders including Jackie Robinson also contacted the group of 8 in the Leon County Jail.

Due penned a letter while in the Leon County Jail, detailing her commitment to civil rights and recounting the Woolworth’s sit-in. She participated in many other demonstrations in Tallahassee in the 1960s, joined several civil rights organizations and served as the field secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality in Tallahassee.

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks proclaimed May 11, 2011 “Patricia Stephens Due Day,” recognizing her critical role in and contributions to the Civil Rights movement in Tallahassee and beyond.

Sit-in at Woolworth's lunch counter - Tallahassee, Florida

Sit-in at Woolworth's lunch counter: Tallahassee, Florida (1960)

Florida Repeals Anti-Dueling Law (1832)

On February 8, 1832, Florida’s Territorial Legislature repealed an anti-dueling law. This measure effectively legalized dueling in the Florida territory. The prevalence of dueling attests to the nature of violence and elite masculinity in the antebellum south.
Placard for duel
RC02619 Placard for a duel: Tallahassee, Florida (1839)

In the above placard, William Tradewell challenged rival politician Leigh Read to a duel. Read had previously made a series of inflammatory remarks about his opponent, causing Tradewell to demand an apology. Though the two never squared-off, both men became known for repeatedly resorting to violence as a means of solving disputes.
Read more »