From the arrival of the very first European explorers back in the 1500s, people of African descent have had a significant role in the making of Jacksonville. Today, the region’s African-American Heritage Trail provides a wide-ranging look at black Jacksonville’s fascinating past. For example, learn about Jacksonville’s original renaissance woman Eartha White, a tireless humanitarian, dedicated to improving the lives of black residents. Here are 9 other reason to explore Jacksonville’s African American Heritage Trail.
#1 Learn about the composers of “America’s Black National Anthem.” “Lift Ev’ry Voice” was written by Jacksonvillenative sons James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson.
#2 See where Hank Aaron got his first big break. The famed right-fielder made a splash with the then-Jacksonville Braves at historic Durkee Field, now known as the J.P. Small Memorial.
#3 Discover Jacksonville’s importance to the early African-American film industry. Jacksonville was home to more than 20 movie studios including Norman Film Studios, making movies for black audiences starring black actors.
#4 Lay out at American Beach, the playground of Florida’s first black millionaire. Local businessman A.L. Lewis bought this land in the 1930s as a resort destination for black families before desegregation.
#5 Learn about Jacksonville’s original renaissance woman. The Clara White Mission houses an exhibit on the legacy of Eartha White, a tireless humanitarian, dedicated to improving the lives of black residents.
#6 See Jacksonville’s oldest home at Kingsley Plantation. First built in 1798, this is one of the last plantation homes in the state of Florida, providing a vital link to the region’s colonial heritage.
#7 Visit Jacksonville’s first black suburbs. Durkeeville was the center of commerce and culture for the local black community during the 30’s. The LaVilla neighborhood was once known as the “Harlem of the South.”
#8 Explore a historic Black Theatre in the heart of LaVilla. Home to Jacksonville’s African American History Museum, The Ritz Theatre and Museum was once a movie house for black families.
#9 Pay tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers at the city’s oldest cemetery. Along with many of Jacksonville’s most prominent early African-American families, the Old City Cemetery houses the graves of dozens of black servicemen, going all the way back to the Civil War.
#10 Visit the last remaining Black School House in Jacksonville. Located at the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society, the St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children dates back to 1898.
There are many more reasons to check out Jacksonville’s extensive African American Heritage, get started at www.jaxheritagetrail.com.