Keeping the Faith: Race, Politics, and Social Development in Jacksonville, Florida, 1940-1970

Keeping the Faith: Race, Politics, and Social Development in Jacksonville, Florida, 1940-1970

Keeping the Faith: Race, Politics, and Social Development in Jacksonville, Florida, 1940-1970

Keeping the Faith: Race, Politics, and Social Development in Jacksonville, Florida, 1940-1970


An examination of the political and economic power of a large African American community in a segregated southern city; this study attacks the myth that blacks were passive victims of the southern Jim Crow system and reveals instead that in Jacksonville, Florida, blacks used political and economic pressure to improve their situation and force politicians to make moderate adjustments in the Jim Crow system. Bartley tells the compelling story of how African Americans first gained, then lost, then regained political representation in Jacksonville. Between the end of the Civil War and the consolidation of city and county government in 1967, the political struggle was buffeted by the ongoing effort to build an economically viable African American economy in the virulently racist South. It was the institutional complexity of the African American community that ultimately made the protest efforts viable.


Jacksonville has the largest concentration of Blacks in Florida. Jacksonville's African-Americans enjoy the full protection of the law and generally live in well- kept, integrated neighborhoods. Although Blacks continue to struggle for political and social equality, they have been integrated into every facet of political life. They have representation on the city council, in the state legislature, and in the federal government. They have a cohesive, growing community filled with economic success stories. Black people are empowered with the resources necessary to tackle problems. There will undoubtedly be even more development and immigration into a city whose population has been steadily increasing.

The 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s shaped modern Jacksonville. Jacksonville's citizens realized the economic and social opportunities that their city offered. African-Americans opened new fronts in the civil rights struggle confronting White America with the harsh realities of conditions faced by Blacks. Despite many challenges and problems, African-Americans survived and some even prospered. Their story is remarkable, considering the obstacles they faced in accomplishing simple things, such as gaining political representation, decent housing, school desegregation, and opening equal employment opportunities.

Interest in topics relating to urban history has increased in the last few decades, and Jacksonville has been the recipient of some of this research. James Crook, Barbara Walch, Marsha Phelts and others have written informative monographs on Jacksonville. These works tell the stories of post-fire Jacksonville; Mary Singleton and Sallye Mathis, the first two African-Americans elected to office in Jacksonville in the modern age; and the history of American Beach. There are currently studies in progress looking at many of the Black communities in Jacksonville.

It is unfortunate that many sources concerning Jacksonville's African- Americans have been destroyed. As Eric Simpson, the now-deceased editor of the city's Black newspaper the Florida Star, said, "You have to rely on the memories of old men who are too honorable to lie, but too proud not to." It is their memories and recollections, coupled with scattered primary and secondary sources such as city directories, daily newspapers, church records, and private . . .

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