If you are a novice to historical exploration in the area, the best way to start diving into the Black history of Jacksonville is booking a tour with Yollie of Explore Jax Core. In a quest to learn more about her roots, she began to discover untold stories and hidden truths from around the city. The two-hour riding tour stops at historic Black neighborhoods, James Weldon Johnson Park, St. Johns River, and Stanton School credited as the first public school for Black children in Florida. I learned about natives like A.L. Lewis, the first Black millionaire in the state who made monumental contributions to his community. We also stopped at Brewster Hospital, the first hospital for African Americans in Jacksonville, filling the gap where medical access was not granted at neighboring facilities. There are many more stops along the way, each with an opportunity to take photos as Yollie gives an in-depth, unfiltered narration of its significance to Jacksonville. It was abundantly clear during our tour that Yollie has a passion for imparting knowledge to all her passengers. Honestly, two hours was not enough time!
For the sports fanatic, America’s favorite pastime, baseball, has roots here too. Nestled in Durkeville is the JP Small Memorial Park, the former home to the Jacksonville Red Caps, one of the Negro League baseball teams. Just below the stadium lies a museum erected to pay tribute to the teams and players (locally and across the country) that were a part of the Negro Leagues. If you’re lucky enough, your tour guide will be Mr. Washington, who intersects history with his personal antidotes and childhood memories that made me feel like I was a part of that moment he regaled. Aside from his stories, my favorite part of the museum was learning about the Black women of baseball: Toni Stone, Mamie Johnson, and Connie Morgan.