Guide to African American Resources in the State Library and Archives of Florida

Cover of Women's History Guide

State Library of Florida: Florida Collection

The State Library's Florida Collection maintains a variety of sources covering all aspects of Florida's history and society, including a wealth of documentation on black history. The collection is housed in the Dorothy Dodd Room, named for Florida's first State Archivist, who was later appointed State Librarian in 1952 and served in this capacity until her retirement in 1965.

During her twenty-four years as State Librarian, Dr. Dodd actively worked to preserve those works that richly document Florida's heritage. Through her efforts, many important items were saved from destruction and now represent the core of the Florida Collection. Researchers are able to gather information on a wide range of topics, including wildlife, business, agriculture, the arts, Florida fiction, government and history.

The information is contained in a variety of formats including books, pamphlets, maps, clippings, pictures, microforms, and personal papers. This section of the guide highlights the sources in the Florida Collection that relate to the black experience in Florida. More information on these materials is available from the State Library of Florida at 500 S. Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250, phone 850-245-6600, e-mail [email protected]

Gavin, J.G. (1859-1940)
Papers, 1880s-1940s, 4 boxes; 24 file folders; 646 pieces

Prominent African American citizen of Wakulla County, involved with the Florida Republican Party, the church, and fraternal work. He was born in March 1859, probably a slave on the plantation of Abram Gavin. He married Hattie (born May 1866) around 1890. Five children were born, three of whom still lived in the household in 1910: Edna L., Mana A., and Vasco. Nephew Johnny Watson also lived with them.

Gavin was an officer on the Wakulla Republican Party Executive Committee as early as 1890. He made Executive Secretary in 1900. He was very active in New Bridge Hope Primitive Baptist Church in Shadeville.

The collection is divided into four series: 1) the Gavin Family Correspondence; 2) Miscellaneous Legal Papers, including military discharges for relatives, court summons, fishing licenses, and other unidentified church and fraternal material; 3) Incoming Correspondence, including correspondence and related materials regarding the Republican Party in Wakulla, as well as farm letters, broadsides, and clippings; and 4) Papers Relating to New Bridge Hope Primitive Baptist Church in Shadeville, including handwritten correspondence, minutes, and committee reports dating from 1892.

Bethune, Mary McLeod (1875-1955)
Papers, 1923-1943, Microfilm roll 

Noted African American educator whose school for girls became Bethune-Cookman College, one of Florida's historically black colleges, in 1923. A woman of national stature, Bethune served as advisor to several presidents from Coolidge to Truman. During Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration she served in the "Black Cabinet," which advised the President on minority issues. In 1924 she was elected president of the National Association for Colored Women's Clubs, and in 1935 she founded the National Council of Negro Women and became its first president.

This microfilm roll of eight boxes of valuable papers consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence, speeches, newspaper clippings, travel itineraries, telegrams, and articles written by Mrs. Bethune.

Bryan, John T.
Papers, 1882-1865, 4 items

Collection includes a bill of sale for slaves.

Dekle, George A.
Papers, 1843-1873 

Collection includes bills of sale for slaves.

Slave Schedules, 1850-1860, 2 microfilm rolls

The 1850 and 1860 slave population schedules are arranged by county and include the name of the owner, number of slaves owned, and the age group of the slaves.

Broadsides, 1840.

A poster announcing the sale of nearly fifty slaves on the Chaires Plantation decreed by the Superior Court of Leon County, April 1840.

Biographical File

This is essentially a newspaper clipping file containing information on state, county, and municipal officials, celebrities, and ordinary people. Clippings on African Americans who served in governmental positions, achieved celebrity status, or accomplished a noteworthy goal are included.

Historical Church Surveys

The original church surveys housed in the Florida Collection include the county, city, name of church, denomination, year established (if known), the types of records available (such as marriage, baptism, death, membership, minutes, confirmations), the date span of the records, and who maintained possession of the records. These surveys were secured through a project conducted by the Works Project Administration and include inventories for black churches throughout Florida.

Card File on Black Legislators During Reconstruction

This file lists the African Americans who served in the Florida Legislature during the Reconstruction Era. Each card contains the legislator's name, whether he was a Senator or Representative, party affiliation, year(s) served, and the county from which he was elected.

Books and Journals

Numerous books and articles have been written about African Americans in Florida. Listed below is a sample of those contained in the Florida Collection; this is not meant to be a comprehensive listing of the resources available from the Florida Collection or from the State Library of Florida.


Federal Writers' Project. The Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States, From Interviews with Former Slaves. (St. Clair Shores, Mich.: Scholarly Press, 1976.) Florida Narratives. Volume 17.

Kingsley, Z. 1765-1843. A Treatise on the Patriarchal, or Cooperative System of Society as it Exists in some Governments, and Colonies in America, and in the United States, under the Name of Slavery with its Necessity and Advantages. (Freeport, N.Y., Books for Libraries Press, 1970)

Rivers, Larry E., 1950-. Slavery in Florida: territorial days to emancipation. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, c2000)

Richardson, Joe Martin. The Negro in the Reconstruction of Florida, 1865-1877. Tallahassee, Florida State University, 1965.

Klingman, Peter D., 1945-. Josiah Walls: Florida 's Black Congressman in Reconstruction. (Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1976)

Black Reconstructionists. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1972)

Emilio, Luis Fenollosa, 1844-. History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865 (cover title A Brave Black Regiment, 54th Mass, 1863-1865). (Boston: Boston Book Co., 1894)

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 1823-1911. Army Life in a Black Regiment. (Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1982, c1869)

Wilson, Joseph T. 1836-1891. The Black Phalanx: a history of the Negro soldiers of the United States in the wars of 1775-1812, 1861-'65. ( Hartford, Conn.: American Pub. Co., 1888)

Williams, George Washington, 1849-1891. A history of the Negro troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865; preceded by a review of the military services of Negroes in ancient and modern times. (New York, Harper & Bros., 1888)

Spellman, Cecil Lloyd, 1906-. Elm City, a Negro community in action. ( Tallahassee, Florida A. and M. College, c1947)

Skinner, Woodward B. Peoples and cultures of early Florida. (Chuluota, Fl., Mickler, c1971)

Black pioneers in Broward County: a legacy revealed. (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: The Links, Inc., 1976)

Johnson, James Weldon, 1871-1938. The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man. (New York: Knopf, 1944, c1927)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Mules and Men. (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1935)

Price, Hugh Douglas. The Negro and Southern Politics. (New York, New York University Press, 1957)

Black Tampa: The Roots of a People. (Tampa: Hillsborough County Museum, 1978)

Florida Legislature. Legislative Investigation Committee. Racial and Civil Disorders in St. Augustine: Report of the legislative Investigation. (Tallahassee: The Committee, 1965)

United States Commission on Civil Rights. Florida Advisory Committee. Constitutional Principle vs. Community practice: A Survey of the Gap in Florida. (Washington, 1964)

Neyland, Leedell W. Twelve Black Floridians. (Tallahassee, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Foundation, 1970)

Various county histories with chapters on black communities

Journal Articles

"Florida 's First Reconstruction Legislature, 1868." Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 32 (1953) pp. 41-43.

"Military Reconstruction and the Growth of Anti-Negro Sentiment in Florida, 1867." Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 47 (1949) pp. 380-400

"An Evaluation of the Freedmen's Bureau in Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 41 (1963) pp. 223-238.

"Florida Black Codes," Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 47 (1969) pp. 365-379.

"The Freedmen's Bureau and Negro labor in Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 39 (1960) pp. 167-174

"Jonathan C. Gibbs: Florida's Only Black Cabinet Member," Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 42 (1964) pp. 363-368

"The Negro in the Reconstruction of Florida," [Ph.D. dissertation] Joe M. Richardson, Florida State University, 1963.

"A Plan to Homestead Freedmen in Florida in 1866," Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 43 (1965) pp. 379-384

"The Negro Abraham," Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume 25 (1946) pp. 1-43.

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