Spanish and English colonists in north Florida purchased African slaves as a source of cheap labor. The slaves were packed below the ship deck in cramped quarters and unsanitary conditions. Disease and starvation were the main cause of death. Some slaves committed suicide by jumping overboard, others were killed for defiance. The fort was the first free black community in North America. Former slaves had to convert to Catholicism in order to settle there.
Life was better under Spanish rule and fugitives fled from the English colonies to the South. Many slaves settled with Native American groups. Some of the Seminoles became masters of the escaped slaves, but the two groups also intermarried. LaVilla would later become an important center for African American culture. Congress, though it was still legal to own slaves. At that time, Florida was still under Spanish rule and not yet part of the U.
They recruited slaves and Native Americans and trained them to fight Americans. A thriving community evolved on the site which was viewed as a threat by white landowners. General Jackson sent troops to attack the fort, killing more than Black Seminoles, free blacks and Indians.
Slave traders like Zephaniah Kingsley brought slaves into north Florida and smuggled them into Georgia. Zephaniah trained slaves in skills like bricklaying, carpentry and weaving to make them more valuable. Kingsley stopped slave trade after the United States took control of Florida from Spain in His Fort George plantation is the oldest plantation house in Florida. In , Jacksonville was established, named after Andrew Jackson, governor of the territory of Florida. Jacksonville became a supply depot and port for the U.
Bethel Church was founded in It was the first church community that was made up of whites and their black slaves. After the Civil War, the white and black communities divided and formed separate congregations known today as First Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Institutional Church.
In , the Seminole Wars ended with the Seminoles giving up their homelands and moved to western reservations. Many former slaves went with them. Jacksonville did not become prosperous until the wars ended and new settlers and tourists arrived.
At that point hotels and boarding houses were built, the lumber industry boomed and steamboats traveled the river.
Florida became a state in At that time only white men 21 and over were allowed to vote. Florida banded with other southern states in a new government called the Confederacy. Florida sent 16, troops to fight for the Confederacy. About white men and more than black men from Florida were anti-Confederate and fought for the Union Army. Florida served as an important source of cattle, hogs and other food for the confederate soldiers.
The rivers and harbors were important for ships trying to get supplies in and out of the state. In , President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared the end of slavery in all areas that were in rebellion against the U. The Confederate troops defeated three black and six white brigades in the battle, including the famous 54th Massachusetts volunteers. When the Civil War ended in , Jacksonville faced many challenges as much of the city was in ruins.
Although the slaves were free, most had to work for low wages or a share of the crops. For the first election after the Civil War, the federal government tried to protect black people by stationing federal troops to oversee elections in which the former slaves could vote. For the first time, Jacksonville had black city representatives, as well as firemen and policemen. In Edward Waters College named after the A. In , the Fourteenth Amendment was enacted. This amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people born in the United States regardless of race.
The same year, Jonathan Gibbs, a minister and educator was appointed Secretary of the State of Florida. For several decades the black community thrived in Jacksonville and was home to many great black leaders. James Weldon Johnson, author, teacher, songwriter, and civil rights leader was born in Jacksonville in A few years later, the Board of Trade was established to start a paid fire department, to pave the streets and make other improvements throughout the city.
In , the LaVilla Township and several other suburbs were incorporated into the City of Jacksonville. In the next election, five of the 18 City Council seats were filled by black members of the LaVilla Township: Vaught, John Spearing and Benjamin Wright.
The election was contested, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled the election legal. A massive epidemic of yellow fever broke out in Jacksonville in More than 4, people were infected, with the disease killing about in the end.
Many city leaders, including the new mayor, fled Jacksonville. Philip Randolph was born in Crescent City, Florida. The song later became known as the Negro National Anthem. In 8 hours on May 3, , the Great Fire in Jacksonville destroyed acres of the oldest, most populated section of Jacksonville. Before the Great Fire, Jacksonville was a winter tourist center. Although many hotels were rebuilt, the city would never gain its popularity with tourists. It did remain an important business and transportation center.
At the time, the population of the city was almost 29,, more than half of whom were black 16, Shortly after the Great Fire, community leaders opened Brewster Hospital to serve the black community.
Other residents started pharmacies, groceries, restaurants, saloons, funeral parlors, bicycle and furniture repair shops, and small banks.
The numbers of black doctors, lawyers and clergy grew. White, has provided Jacksonville with mission work and job skill training for those in need for over one hundred years. Norman was one of the few filmmakers who portrayed black people as heroes. Norman made 8 feature films from through Most of the Norman films are lost. In , Norman bought a studio in East Arlington area of Jacksonville. Norman Studios were probably the most sophisticated production facility in its day.
In the twenty years leading up to World War II, Jacksonville grew but blacks and whites lived segregated lives. There were separate schools, clubs, neighborhoods and churches. Black people could not eat in white restaurants, try on clothes in white stores, be admitted to white hospitals or swim in pools or certain beaches. After the Two Spot opened in , there was a gradual shift away from Ashley Street and urban decay began. A young Ray Charles spent a year playing in pick-up bands on Ashley Street in In , local attorney D.
Perkins helped sponsor a lawsuit that resulted in blacks being allowed to vote in the primary elections of the Democratic Party. Under these enforced conditions our education system was divided by having separate schools for whites and blacks. In , the U. This decision stated that public schools in the U. Desegregation did not occur right away. In and in St. Augustine, blacks boycotted businesses owned by white people. Martin Luther King, Jr. During a demonstration, many marchers were injured by an angry crowd, and photographs of the confrontation were seen across the country.
Congress passed a new Civil Rights Act in that outlawed discrimination. While this gave any person, regardless of race, sex or religion, the right to use restaurants, hotels and public facilities, this did not resolve racial issues in many parts of the country, including Northeast Florida. In , Jacksonville and the county of Duval, minus the Beaches and Baldwin, consolidated into the City of Jacksonville, creating a united government and increasing the tax base, while providing city services for previously unincorporated areas.
The African American Heritage of Florida,