Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Looks at Civil Rights Role as Tourism, Teaching Tools; by Steve Patterson

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Looks at Civil Rights Role as Tourism, Teaching Tools; by Steve Patterson

Article excerpt

Byline: steve.patterson@jacksonville.com

A tourism pitch that bypassed traveler-favorite Florida has sparked the creation of a Jacksonville task force on an overlooked subject: the city's role in civil rights history.

Jacksonville's City Council unanimously approved forming a 27-member task force this week to recommend steps to present the city's civil rights role to residents and tourists.

The tourists were the spark, though, coming to mind after City Council President Anna Brosche read a Times-Union editorial that noted a website promoting a United State Civil Rights Trail with no sites in Florida. A website promoting the trail was chiefly promoted by a coalition of travel offices from other Southern states.

"It was just a wake-up call that we need to do a better job of highlighting that history," said Brosche, who introduced the task force resolution, which the council then cosponsored.

"We should be capitalizing on that rich history in a way that helps people understand who Jacksonville is and why we're great," she said.

Jacksonville has had notable

roles in Florida's civil right past and black history generally.

The city attracted ambitious blacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when big parts of central and southern Florida were thinly populated.

Although African-Americans were pushed out of politics in parts of the state after the Reconstruction era ended in the 1870s, Jacksonville had black officeholders as late as 1907. Blacks worked in medicine, education and filmmaking in Jacksonville in the early 20th century.

James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, the brothers who created the song "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" first sung in Jacksonville, became emblems of black accomplishment in that time. …

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