Brewster Hospital, started under the direction of Harriet Emerson, opened its doors to African Americans in Jacksonville. At the time, it was the only hospital and nursing school available to African Americans in the city. Nurses from the school were well trained and highly recruited by hospitals all over the United States.
The City of Jacksonville enacted a statute mandating the separation of blacks and whites on the city street cars. This measure was followed by other Jim Crow laws which established segregation as the rule in all areas of life.
On May 3, a disastrous fire raged through 146 blocks of Downtown Jacksonville, destroying 2,368 buildings including 10 hotels, 23 churches, city hall, courthouse, jail, and armory. The fire left 8,677 people homeless and caused $15 million in property damage. Although started at the Cleveland Fiber Factory in LaVilla, most of the neighborhood was spared.
The Afro-American Life Insurance Company, the first insurance company in the State of Florida, was founded by seven local African American businessmen and ministers. It provided burial, medical, life insurance and pension funds to the black community. The company became one of the most important African American businesses in the Southeast during the first half of the 20th century.
Ellie Lee Weems was born in McDonough, Georgia and moved to Jacksonville in 1929 where he established a portrait studio. Operating for nearly 50 years, Weems took thousands of photographs that recorded African American life in Jacksonville during the first half of the twentieth century.
James Weldon Johnson resigned as principal of Stanton School and moved to New York. There he formed a musical collaboration with his brother John Rosamond and Bob Cole. This trio became one of the most successful song writing teams for early Broadway productions.
President Theodore Roosevelt appoints James Weldon Johnson U.S. consul to Venezuela and, in 1909, to the same position in Nicaragua.
The last year that African Americans served in Jacksonville’s city government because of Jim Crow Laws. In 1967, two African Americans, Mary Singleton and Sallye B. Mathis, were elected to the City Council.
The NAACP was founded.
The 48-room Richmond Hotel opened under the ownership and operation of Alice Kirkpatrick. This beautiful hotel had all the modern amenities of the day and was most famous for its “Tea Room.” This building was the temporary home of such stars as Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday when they visited Jacksonville to play in the local clubs.
James Weldon Johnson’s first novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, was first published anonymously. It was reissued in 1927 under his name.
Frank Crowd opened the Globe Theatre. The building was later remodeled to become home to the Clara White Mission in 1932.
The Strand Theatre, located at 703 West Ashley Street, opened.
The Masonic Temple building was completed by the Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge. The fire proof, five story brick building had commercial and office spaces and became the address of choice for Jacksonville’s African American professionals and business owners. The Masonic Temple housed several businesses, including the Anderson, Tucker & Co. Bank, Pedro Mendez Tailoring Shop and the law offices of Daniel W. Perkins. Because of its architectural and historical significance, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
United States enters World War I
The Florida Negro Funeral Directors & Embalmers Association was founded. Japhus Baker, one of the founders, was the first African American licensed embalmer in Florida. He was known as the “Father of Black Embalmers” because he trained many of the black embalmers in the state. As a teenager, Japhus Baker worked for his uncle, Wyatt J. Geter, who opened the first black owned funeral home in Jacksonville circa 1895. Geter & Baker Funeral Homes was located at 767 W. Beaver Street.
The Norman Film Studio was opened by Richard Norman, one of America’s most successful producers of race movies that featured all-black cast in roles free of racial stereotypes. Norman produced eight feature films between 1920 and 1928 including The Green-Eyed Monster (1920), The Crimson Skull (1921), The Bull-Dogger (1921), Regeneration (1923), A Debtor to the Law (1924), The Flying Ace (1926), and The Black Gold (1928). Located in the Arlington neighborhood of south Jacksonville, four of the five buildings in the studio complex were purchased and rehabilitated by the City of Jacksonville.
The Hollywood Music Store, owned by local African American businessman Joe Higdon, was opened. The store was a popular hub of activity for people in the entertainment business. The structure was demolished in 2001.
Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to obtain a pilot’s license, died in an airplane accident in Jacksonville while practicing for an air show. In Jacksonville, more than 5,000 were in attendance for her services at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, followed by another service at St. Philips Episcopal Church. After a service in Orlando, Bessie Coleman was buried in Chicago at the young age of 33.
Wilder Park Branch Library opened. It was the first branch library open to serve African American communities in Jacksonville. The library along with the rest of the 30-acre Wilder Park was removed for Interstate construction.
The Lincoln Golf and County Club opened. It was the only facility of its kind available to African Americans until the 1960s.
Eartha M.M. White was an educator, entrepreneur, humanitarian, philanthropist and social activist who established the Clara White Mission in honor of her mother, Clara English White, a former slave. Located at 613 W. Ashley Street, the Clara White Mission became the center of Eartha’s humanitarian and social activities. Food, clothing, and a helping hand were provided to the indigent, homeless, transients, and others in need without regard to race, color, sex, age, national origin or religious belief.
The Great Depression began with the stock market crash.
American Beach on Amelia Island in Nassau County was founded by A.L. Lewis and the Pension Bureau of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company as a vacation destination for African Americans during segregation. American Beach remains one of the only predominantly African American residential beach communities in the country.
The current grandstand for Durkee Field, named for Dr. J. H. Durkee, was constructed. Originally called Barrs Field, organized sports have been played on the site of Durkee Field since 1911. The park was the home to the Red Caps of the Negro League, and later the field where baseball legend, Hank Aaron, started his professional career with the Jacksonville Tars in 1953. In 1980, the park was renamed the James P. “Bubbling” Small Park in memory of a longtime coach and mentor at Stanton High School.
Boy Scout pioneer David H. Dwight, Sr. became the first African American in the country to receive the Silver Beaver, scouting’s highest award. Dwight received the honor after he successfully led a campaign for African American boys to join the organization and to be allowed to wear the official Boy Scout uniform.
Durkeeville Housing Project opened. It was the first public housing project for African Americans in Jacksonville and one of the earliest in the state.
Housed in the Willie Smith Building located at West Ashley and North Broad Streets, Florida Cut Price Pharmacy, owned by African American entrepreneur Willie J. Smith, opened for business. Willie Smith also owned and operated the Florida Pharmacy at 1230-1232 Florida Avenue for over 30 years. 1940 African American businessman “Charlie Edd” Craddock, who operated numerous businesses in LaVilla, opened the Two Spot Club at 45th St. and Moncrief Road on Christmas Day, 1940. The Two Spot could accommodate 2,000 dancers with seating for an additional 1,000 on the first floor and mezzanine. It became the most prominent nightclub for African Americans in the city during the 1940s and 1950s.
On December 7, the naval facility at Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered World War II.
Blodgett Homes, the third public housing project in Jacksonville, was built for African Americans. The project was named after the wealthy African American building contractor and developer, Joseph Haygood Blodgett.
After a successful legal battle led by local African American attorney D.W, Perkins and the plaintiff, Reverend Dallas Graham, African Americans in Jacksonville were allowed to vote in the state primary elections.
The Roosevelt Barber Shop, one of the oldest businesses in LaVilla, opened.
U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas overturns the “separate but equal” principle.
Forty African Americans, mostly from the Youth Council of the NAACP under the leadership of Rutledge Pearson, staged a demonstration in Downtown Jacksonville seeking access to “whites only” lunch counters. They were met by white men carrying axe handles and baseball bats that were used to injure many of the demonstrators with others seeking shelter at nearby Snyder Memorial Methodist Church. “Ax Handle Saturday” was a turning point in Jacksonville’s civil rights movement.
Led by 16-year-old Rodney Hurst, the 450 member NAACP Youth Council staged a sit-in at F.W. Woolworth’s on April 5. Rodney Hurst and Youth Council Secretary Margaret Meeks have the distinction of being the first blacks served at Woolworth’s white-only lunch counter.
Jacksonville native Robert Lee “Bullet Bob” Hayes won two gold medals, one in the 100 meter race and another as the anchor in the US 400 meter relay team at the Tokyo Olympics. At the time, Bob Hayes was called the “World’s Fastest Human,” and later went on to have a professional football career playing for the Dallas Cowboys, where he received two Super Bowl rings.
Sally B. Mathis, Mary Singleton, Attorney Earl Johnson and Oscar Taylor became the first African Americans to be elected to the Jacksonville City Council since 1907. Mathis and Singleton were also the first women ever elected to the City Council. Charles E. Simmons, Jr. was elected to the City Civil Service Board after having been appointed to the position in 1966.
Consolidation of Jacksonville and Duval County made the city the largest in land area in the lower 48 states.
Earl Johnson became the first black City Council President in 1976.
Warren Jones served two consecutive terms as Council President from July 1, 1991 to June 30, 1993.
Nathaniel Glover was elected as the first black Sheriff of the City of Jacksonville, and the second black Sheriff in the state of Florida.