African-American History on Display; City Library Exhibit Chronicles a Part of Jacksonville's Past

Article excerpt

Byline: CHERIE BLACK

Open the large, wooden, posterboard-size cover of an Old Stanton High School yearbook, and history oozes from each page.

A black binder filled with plastic-covered photos and letters chronicles an era of Jacksonville life through black-and-white images and elegant script writing.

It is part of Jacksonville's past, a history on display at Jacksonville's Main Library.

Called the African-American Collection, it is an assemblage of thousands of reference materials highlighting the lives and contributions of blacks in Florida, especially Jacksonville, dating from Reconstruction after the Civil War in 1865 through 2000.

Saturday, the library will hold a dedication for the public and formally unveil the collection.

For the past two years, the library -- with a budget of $500,000 from the Better Jacksonville Plan -- purchased books, periodicals and subject and biography vertical files from around the country. Families and residents also donated old photos and letters they had from years past. The focus is on anyone and anything relating to African-American life during the time period. From letters asking about tax payments to images from local high school performances, all aspects of life are shown.

For example, work by Emerson Jones, a local wedding photographer from the '60s and '70s, was donated to the library by his daughter Elena Jones, who lives in Washington, D.C. There is the life story of Florida Dwight, the first director of parks and recreation for blacks in Jacksonville in the early 1900s. There are also scrapbooks from Duval County recreation programs at predominantly African-American public schools in the mid-'50s. …