Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Let's Celebrate Our Great Local History

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Let's Celebrate Our Great Local History

Article excerpt

Let's take a history tour of Jacksonville focused on LaVilla, Downtown and nearby neighborhoods.

We'll start at the A. Philip Randolph room at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. African-American porters, represented by Randolph, were always a major feature of the route. Randolph was a major organizer of the 1963 March on Washington that is best known for Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Yes, you can find a plaque at the Prime Osborn.

But he deserves much more.

Now just a few blocks to the north is the home site of Jacksonville's James Weldon Johnson. He and brother Rosamond wrote the classic African-American hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Unfortunately, there is just a marker there now, but plans would include a sculptural rendition of the sort of house that Johnson lived in. Jacksonville has not done nearly enough to celebrate its native son.

Now things begin to perk up a few blocks to the north on Monroe Street, the new location of Brewster Hospital, which provided medical services to African-Americans during segregation days. The story of that hospital could be fascinating if it included early medical care. Brewster Hospital is slated to become the new headquarters of the North Florida Land Trust, so there are more opportunities for a history lessons.

Now let's travel a few more blocks north to the Ritz, the one place in LaVilla that tells the story of this history. The highlight of the Ritz is a Sally Industries production, an animatronic presentation of James and Rosamond Johnson telling the story of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" along with some local Jacksonville anecdotes.

Now on to Old Stanton High School. The principal there was James Weldon Johnson. But another famous student at Stanton was T. Thomas Fortune, one of the early leaders of America's civil rights movement.

Unfortunately, the old building is in decrepit shape.

Fortune's history is simply lost in Jacksonville.

Next door is the Clara White Mission. Little known except to history buffs is the fact that the third floor contains a treasure trove of memorabilia of Eartha M.M. White and her mother, Clara. …

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