General Daniel "Chappie" James

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African-American history in Florida.

Long before they shed their blood on the battlefields of Europe and Asia during World War II, African-Americans fought for freedom in conflicts throughout North America. Prior to Executive Order 9981 by President Harry S. Truman in 1948, African-Americans served in segregated units and, with a few notable exceptions, performed largely undesirable work and received little commendation for their service.

General Daniel James Jr., ca. 1975

General Daniel James Jr., ca. 1975

Florida native Daniel “Chappie” James (1920-1978) was one of the pioneers that paved the way for the advancement of black soldiers in the U.S. military. In 1975, he became the first African-American 4-star General in the Air Force.

James, born in Pensacola on February 11, 1920, graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in 1942. The following year he completed flight training at Tuskegee and was commissioned as an Army Air Force pilot in an all-black squadron. During the Korean War, he flew 101 combat missions in P-51 and F-80 aircraft. After the war, in 1957, James graduated from the Air Command and Staff College. He also flew 78 combat missions during the Vietnam War.

General Daniel James Jr. with Florida Governor Reubin Askew, Tallahassee, 1976

General Daniel James Jr. with Florida Governor Reubin Askew, Tallahassee, 1976

James earned numerous honors and awards during his distinguished career, both for military achievement and civic engagement. He died from a heart attack in 1978, just weeks after retiring from the military, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Mary McLeod Bethune Learning Unit

Check out our online learning unit to learn more about educator and civil rights pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune. The unit explores the life and legacy of Bethune, using primary source documents from the collections of the State Library and Archives of Florida. Lesson plans included in the unit are correlated to state and national standards.

Mary McLeod Bethune and girls from her school, Daytona Beach, ca. 1910

Mary McLeod Bethune and girls from her school, Daytona Beach, ca. 1910

Black History Month Webinar

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African-American history in Florida.

Looking for Black History Month resources? Check out our Florida Electronic Library/Florida Memory webinar to learn more about online resources for the study of African-American history and culture in Florida: http://bit.ly/1jAFz5w.

Abraham, Black Seminole war leader and interpreter, ca. 1838

Abraham, Black Seminole war leader and interpreter, ca. 1838

Civil Rights Photo Exhibit

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African-American history in Florida.

Floridians played a prominent role in the long struggle for civil rights. Visit our online photo exhibit to learn more about important events and individuals in the Civil Rights Movement in Florida.

NAACP march on the Capitol, Tallahassee, early 1960s

NAACP march on the Capitol, Tallahassee, early 1960s

 

Twine Photographic Collection

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African-American history in Florida.

Richard Aloysius Twine (1896-1974) photographed the African-American community of Lincolnville, just south of St. Augustine, in the 1920s.

Richard A. Twine, ca. 1925

Richard A. Twine, ca. 1925

Twine, born in St. Augustine on May 11, 1896, had a brief but notable career as a professional photographer in Lincolnville. Founded by freed slaves after the Civil War, Lincolnville’s homes and businesses formed the center of St. Augustine’s black community in the early 20th century.

Emancipation Day Parade, ca. 1925

Emancipation Day Parade, ca. 1925

The Twine home on Kings Ferry Way was damaged by fire and about to be torn down in 1988 when, fortuitously, the demolition crew discovered 103 glass-plate negatives in the attic. The negatives were restored and placed in the custody of the St. Augustine Historical Society. A partnership in the 1990s allowed the Archives to copy Twine’s negatives, and later, make them available on the Florida Memory website.

Demps family outside their home, ca. 1925

Demps family outside their home, ca. 1925

Lincolnville residents played a critical role in the local Civil Rights Movement, particularly as foot soldiers in the sit-ins, wade-ins, and other demonstrations held in the early 1960s. Today, the remaining historic buildings in Lincolnville are part of the Lincolnville Historic District.

Knights of St. Johns, ca. 1925

Knights of St. Johns, ca. 1925

Resources for Black History Month

Looking for Black History Month resources? Find them on Florida Memory.

African American history in Florida dates back to the first explorers of the early 16th century. Our Black History Month resources page provides links to resources for students and teachers, or anyone who wants to learn more about the prominent role of African Americans in Florida history.

Mary McLeod Bethune, Daytona Beach, ca. 1904

Mary McLeod Bethune, Daytona Beach, ca. 1904

Alvan S. Harper Photographic Collection

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African American history in Florida.

Nellie Franklin, ca. 1900

Nellie Franklin, ca. 1900

Photographer Alvan S. Harper captured scenes of middle class African Americans in Tallahassee from the 1880s to the 1910s. Portraits such as those taken by Harper provide a small window into Tallahassee’s black community during the indignity of the Jim Crow era.

Many of the photographs in the collection remain unidentified, including two featured in this post. If you have any additional information about images in the Harper Collection, please contact the State Archives of Florida: Archives@DOS.MyFlorida.com.

Woman wearing dress with roses on bodice and holding a fan, Tallahassee, ca. 1900

Some of Harper’s best negatives were lost when his studio was torn down in the 1920s. The negatives had been given to a Tallahassee historian who, because they were dirty, left them on a porch where they were mistaken for trash and taken to the dump.

Man in striped tie and pants, holding newspaper, Tallahassee, ca. 1900

About 2,000 more Harper negatives were found in 1946 in the attic of the house he had owned. A Tallahassee photographer printed 250 negatives and circulated the prints in the community for identification. The negatives were turned over to the State Library, and later transferred to the Florida Photographic Collection after it was founded in 1952.

Contact the Museum of Florida History for more information about the Alvan S. Harper traveling exhibit, part of the museum’s TREX Program.

A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979)

A. Philip Randolph, the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was born in Crescent City, Florida, and grew up in Jacksonville. The son of a Methodist minister, he attended the City College of New York, and later published The Messenger, a political and literary magazine.

The 1937 contract between the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Pullman Company cut working hours, increased pay, and improved working conditions.

Randolph was also a major influence in ending discrimination in defense plants and segregation of the U.S. military. He was director of the August 28, 1963 March on Washington, D.C. — the largest civil rights demonstration in American history.

Group portrait of members attending the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters convention in Washington, D.C.

Group portrait of members attending the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters convention in Washington, D.C.

The membership of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters included the African-American porters and maids who worked on the railway trains. Randolph, Benjamin McLaurin, and Julius and Eliza Rosier Glass were natives of Jacksonville. Julius was a fireman on the Florida East Coast Line.

Portrait of A. Philip Randolph

Portrait of A. Philip Randolph

Detour to Liberty: Black Troops in Florida during the Civil War

In his annual message to the Florida General Assembly on November 17, 1862, Governor John Milton pointed to Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which proclaimed freedom for all slaves living in areas of the country still in rebellion by January 1863, as a plot to “subjugate Florida . . . and to colonize the State with negroes . . . .”

The proclamation was, Milton argued, nothing less than “the means the most terrific which could be devised to alarm the people of the South . . . .” As Milton feared, the Emancipation Proclamation came to pass on January 1, 1863, but the alarm that sounded across the South was soon compounded by the Union’s deployment of black troops against the Confederacy.

Beginning in March 1863, Florida was the site of some of the earliest operations of black regiments, which became an essential part of Union operations in the state until the end of the war.

Drawing of a black Union infantryman

Drawing of a black Union infantryman

As early as November 1862, black companies conducted raids against salt works and saw mills along both sides of the coastal border between Georgia and Florida. These attacks were the outgrowth of the U.S. War Department’s order of August 25, 1862. That order allowed the creation of a limited number of black units within the U.S. Army’s Department of the South, which was responsible for military operations along the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
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Eartha M.M. White Tells a True Life Ghost Story

Eartha M.M. White tells this true life ghost story based on an incident from before the Civil War. The story was told to Eartha White by her mother, Clara White, who was raised in slavery on Amelia Island in Fernandina, Florida.

“Ghost Story”

Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record

Eartha M. M. White was a humanitarian, businesswoman and philanthropist from Jacksonville. She created educational opportunities and provided relief to African-Americans in northeastern Florida. White helped found several organizations and institutions, including the Clara White Mission, Mercy Hospital and the Boy’s Improvement Club. She was designated as a Great Floridian by the Florida Department of State in the year 2000.

Eartha M.M. White and her mother Clara White: Jacksonville, Florida (ca. 1910)

Eartha M.M. White and her mother Clara White: Jacksonville, Florida (ca. 1910)

This recording was made in January 1940 as part of the Federal Writers Project. The voice introducing the story is that of Robert Cook. Cook also traveled with Zora Neale Hurston to gather folklife recordings and photographs across the state.

In Florida, the Federal Writers Project was based out of Jacksonville, and directed by historian Carita Doggett Corse. Seven recording expeditions were conducted in the 1930s and ’40s in Florida by Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, Stetson Kennedy, Robert Cook, and others.

The field recordings were made on acetate disks, usually recorded at 78 rpm. The originals are still housed with the Library of Congress.