JACKSONVILLE, FL. February 5, 2021 – Throughout Jacksonville’s history, Black and African American leaders have played a significant and lasting role in making the city what it is today. Black heritage is steeped within Jacksonville’s unique culture, thriving art scene and 400-year-old history. As we recognize Black History Month, visitors can experience the city’s rich Black history in a number of ways such as walking the African American Heritage Trail, admiring moving displays of public art and experiencing Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods and parks.
The African American Heritage Trail
Along Jacksonville’s African American Heritage Trail, visitors learn about the brave and innovative African Americans who played a leading role in the making of Jacksonville, dating all the way back to the 1500s. Some of the most captivating highlights from the tour include James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, the composers of the inspiring anthem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing;” Historic J.P. Small Historic Stadium (Formerly Durkee Field) where the late Hank Aaron, famed right fielder and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, got his big break with the then-Jacksonville Braves; and Eartha White exhibit in the Clara White Mission, which honors Jacksonville’s Original Renaissance Woman; to name just a few of the notable Black leaders who altered Jacksonville's history.
Honoring Black History Through Art & Culture
Jacksonville’s burgeoning art scene reflects the city’s deep-seated Black heritage and is represented through the city’s public art murals, arts markets and museums.
In 2020, ArtRepublic, a cultural production agency based in Jacksonville, unveiled several new public murals as part of the national Lift Ev’ry Voice Placement Project. Five of the 12 murals are located in Jacksonville, spotlighting impressive local artists and paying tribute to the Black leaders who shaped the city’s education, culture and human rights efforts. Visitors can explore all the murals created by Black artists or murals by other artists that feature Black subjects by referencing Jacksonville’s Black Mural Map.
The 6 Ft. Away Gallery also debuted in 2020 as a pop-up public art space created by curator, artist and advocate Shawana Brooks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As cultural spaces closed due to the pandemic and social distancing restrictions were implemented, 6 Ft. Away Gallery served as a safe space for local artists to vent frustrations, discuss trauma and express themselves. The current exhibition reflects injustice against Black Americans.
The Cummer Museum of Arts & Gardens in Jacksonville is also celebrating the significant contributions and creativity of the city’s Black community through its Black History Month programming and ongoing initiatives, such as Art Ventures Exhibition. Whether in-person or virtually, individuals can experience live music, art talks, artmaking and more with the Cummer Museum of Arts & Garden. Art Ventures, which is open now through February 21, is a retrospective exhibition that features 30 local artists, including several of Jacksonville’s talented Black artists.
Rediscovering Black Heritage within the Community
Black heritage can be found across Jacksonville’s many neighborhoods, including the historic community of LaVilla. During its height of activity in the 1920s-1960s, LaVilla was known as the “Harlem of the South” and is the birthplace of James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson. Visitors can pay homage to the brothers by visiting The Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park or taking in live performances of the anthem at the Ritz Theatre & Museum. LaVilla is also undergoing redevelopment, which can be seen in this video, to celebrate the past and build connections.
Within the LaVilla neighborhood and throughout Jacksonville, visitors can also find many local “Makers” embracing Black heritage and culture. Black-owned businesses and restaurants celebrate the city’s roots while supporting Jacksonville’s proud and diverse local business owners.
To learn more about Jacksonville’s history and Black heritage, or to plan your trip to Jacksonville this February, visit visitjacksonville.com.
About Visit Jacksonville
Visit Jacksonville is a Destination Marketing Organization accredited by Destinations International and contracted by the Duval County Tourist Development Council (TDC) since 1996 to champion the growth of leisure and business tourism in Jacksonville.
For a closer look at all there is to see and do in Jacksonville, go to www.VisitJacksonville.com.