League Marks Half-Century
Foley, Bill, The Florida Times Union
Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain and Lt. Phillip
Mountbatten rehearsed their wedding.
The Boston Red Sox got Vern Stephens from the St. Louis
Browns. Jacksonville officials christened the "Miracle Mile" on
They all got more publicity Nov. 17, 1947, than the
Jacksonville Urban League, which was created that day in a swirl
The years have been kindest to the Urban League.
The royalty is a little dowdy. The Red Sox are still the Red
Sox. The Miracle Mile went down the tube years ago.
The Urban League marked its 50th year last night with an
upscale affair at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.
At middle age, the league is celebrating on its feet.
The mission is the same. The to-do list is longer.
Fifty years ago, the convention center was the Jacksonville
train station, in which African-Americans were not allowed free
A half-century has made a big difference. But difference is
perspective. Feet that dance the night away have miles to go.
Singer Lou Rawls headlined last night's anniversary gala,
which in itself marked it as a swell affair.
Uptown is increasingly a matter of course to the black
community. African-Americans no longer are restricted to what is
now the Philip Randolph Room of the erstwhile train station. It
is hard to imagine any way other than onward and upward for
theJacksonville Urban League and its constituency at its 50th
But in 1947, it appeared every other way. There was much
"onward," but precious little "upward."
Black aspirations and white apprehenison neared a post-war
nexus. A handful of blacks and whites put a lot on the line to
forge a local chapter of the National Urban League.
The mission was to meet a need. It was a means to an end. No
one was sure of either the means or the end. It was an adventure
in character and mettle in a time of uncertainty.
The National Urban League had been around since 1910,
headquartered in New York City and distant to the Jacksonville
community. Its purpose was, and is, to end racial discrimination
and to increase the economic and political power of
African-Americans and other minority groups.
The closest thing to a Jacksonville counterpart was the
Jacksonville Negro Welfare League, a uni-racial organization of
limited resource and outreach rooted in endeavors such as
Brewster Hospital, the Christmas Charity Club, the Old Folks
Home and the Sunshine Day Nursery.
In the mid-1920s, the Negro Welfare League became eligible
for help from the Community Chest, a forerunner of the United
Way. Jesse O. Thomas, National Urban League field secretary,
helped with fund-raising. The black community responded beyond
its goal. But the need for services outgrew the league.
Migration of blacks to Jacksonville during the war years and
subtly changing attitudes among leadership in the white
community jelled into a pattern for change.
A prosaic survey of conditions in the black community was
undertaken in May 1946 by a local council of social agencies,
led by a steering committee of Richard P. …