New black voices : the growth and contributions of Sallye Mathis and Mary Singleton in Florida government /

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Title:
New black voices : the growth and contributions of Sallye Mathis and Mary Singleton in Florida government /
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Book
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Walch, Barbara Hunter

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University of North Florida
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Foreword
        Page v
        Page vi
    Introduction
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
    Background: African Americans in Jacksonville, 1860-1890
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
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        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
    Mary Littlejohn Singleton
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
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        Page 50
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    Sallye Brooks Mathis
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
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    Election to the city council, 1967
        Page 96
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    City council representatives, 1967-1972
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
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        Page 165
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        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
    Next steps: After 1972
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
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        Page 201
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        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
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    Endnotes
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
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    Bibliography
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
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        Page 264
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        Page 269
    Index
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
Full Text




NEW BLACK VOICES:

THE GROWTH
AND
CONTRIBUTIONS









OF


SALLYE MATHIS AND MARY SINGLETON

IN FLORIDA GOVERNMENT



By
BARBARA HUNTER WALCH








NEW BLACK VOICES:
THE GROWTH AND CONTRIBUTIONS
OF
SALLYE MATHIS AND MARY SINGLETON
IN FLORIDA GOVERNMENT

by Barbara Hunter Walch

Sallye Brooks Mathis and Mary Littlejohn Singleton were
former teachers from an active black community who were
the first African Americans in 60 years, and the first women
ever, to be elected to the Jacksonville, Florida, City Council
in 1967. They brought fresh perspectives into local
government.
Sallye Mathis served 15 years on the Jacksonville City
Council. Mary Singleton served 5 years on the council, 4 in
the Florida Legislature, and 2 as director of the Florida
Division of Elections.
Their lives encompassed 70 event-filled years of Jack-
sonville-Florida-American history.
Based on the author's 1988 M.A. thesis for the University
of Florida-University of North Florida joint history
program.
Well documented with photographs, endnotes, bibiog-
raphy and index.
Preface by Dr. Brenda Simmons, Assistant Dean for Stu-
dent Affairs at Florida Community College at Jacksonville.
The author has researched, critiqued and edited curricula
about Sioux Indian and African American cultures, and has
taught American and ethnic history at Florida Commnunity
College at Jacksonville.










NEW BLACK VOICES: THE GROWTH AND
CONTRIBUTIONS OF SALLYE MATHIS
AND MARY SINGLETON
IN FLORIDA GOVERNMENT








By
BARBARA HUNTER WALCH









Published by
Barbara H. Walch
Jacksonville, Florida
1990










Copyright 1990
by
Barbara Hunter Walch
Jacksonville, Florida
All rights reserved.




Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 90-91424



Typography by All About Type, Jacksonville, Florida
Printed by Astro Printers, Jacksonville, Florida
United States of America

Opinions of persons cited are theirs and
not necessarily those of the author.




Photographs: thanks to
Grace Brooks Solomon, Laurie Scott Goodman,
and Jackie Eldridge








Table of Contents


Page

FOREW ARD ......................................... v
INTRODUCTION ................................. vii
CHAPTERS
I BACKGROUND: AFRICAN AMERICANS
IN JACKSONVILLE ............................ 1
II MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON ........... 26
III SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS .................... 52
IV ELECTION TO THE CITY COUNCIL, 1967 .... 96
V CITY COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES
Symbolic Presence as African American Women 118
Emphasis on Low Income Needs ............... 133
Advocacy for African American Rights ........... 147
Encouragement of Others ...................... 163
VI NEXT STEPS: AFTER 1972
Sallye B. Mathis .............................. 170
Mary L. Singleton ............................... 183
Afterwards ..................................... 207
ENDNOTES ....................................... 208
BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................. 257
INDEX ............................................. 270







Forward


Although it has been exactly a decade since the death
of Mary Singleton and eight years since Sallye Mathis'
demise, the names of both women are frequently spoken in
households across the city of Jacksonville. The contributions
to city and state government made by these salwart states-
persons have found their place in posterity.
The details presented in the following pages recount the
political lives of two women of courage and offer further
reasons to believe that both Mary Singleton and Sallye Mathis
were undisputed leaders in their respective fields. These
magnificent women are a source of inspiration, pride and
emulation to young and old alike.
The most striking impression remaining after reading
this account is to marvel at the unfettered dedication and
tenacity displayed daily through the legislative acts and other
actions implemented by these women. A reader, no matter
what ethnic origin or gender, will be reminded that steadfast
persistence coupled with wisdom and insight, will net meas-
urable rewards.
The need for research in Jacksonville's African American
history is far greater than the efforts of dedicated researchers
like the author of this book. However, Mrs. Walch's efforts
are applauded and held in high esteem as she has made a
valiant attempt to fill a void in the research and study of the
contributions of African Americans to the progress of Jack-
sonville and the State of Florida.
Brenda R. Simmons, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs
Florida Community College at Jacksonville








Introduction


In June 1967, Sallye Brooks Mathis and Mary Littlejohn
Singleton became the first African-Americans in 60 years,
and the first women ever, to serve on the city council of
Jacksonville, Florida. After decades of unsuccessful attempts
by Jacksonville blacks to win government positions, these
two women were elected in an at-large city vote by wide
margins. Re-elected easily, Sally Mathis served on the city
council until her death in 1982. Mary Singleton was elected
to the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 until
1976, when she was appointed Director of Florida's Division
of Elections. In 1978 she resigned, ran unsuccessfully for
lieutenant governor of Florida, and worked as an adminis-
trator in the state comptroller's office until her death in 1980.
At the time of their election in 1967, there was consi-
derable concern about the racial situation in America. After
major race riots in U. S. cities the previous few years (with
occasional disorder in Jacksonville), further rioting was pre-
dicted for the summer of 1967. The civil rights legislation of
1964 and 1965 had brought substantial improvements in the
hopes and legal status of African Americans. Yet there was
disillusionment at the slow pace of change and the continued
resistance of whites to desegregation and real equality. Non-
violent civil rights demonstrations were continuing through-
out the country. Stokely Carmichael's call for "Black Power"
and separation in 1966 had inspired young blacks especially,
and some blacks were preparing for violence. Martin Luther
King, Jr., angered some of his white supporters when he
criticized the huge sums of money' the Vietnam War was
taking from meeting the needs ofpoor people at home. The
recently founded National Organization for Women included
blacks among its leaders, although specifically black concerns





viii


were not top priorities for many white women. Desegregation
of the schools had been ordered by the courts but Duval
County was resisting the change, as in many other places.
The numbers of black elected officials were slowly increasing
nationally but were hindered even in cities by at-large voting
systems and other measures. It was in this setting that Sallye
Mathis and Mary Singleton were able to break the political
barriers and get elected to public office, during a month
when there was rioting in Tampa, Florida, and Atlanta,
Georgia.
The stories of Sallye Mathis and Mary Singleton give
insight into the development of the civil rights movement
and the entrance of African Americans and women into the
twentieth century political system. Their lives encompassed
eight decades of American history-with the challenges and
changes in the opportunities available to blacks and to
women generally during those years. They helped to shape
the struggle for equal opportunity and to implement some
of its benefits.
The two women grew up in stable neighborhoods in an
active black community during times when blacks in the
South experienced racial segregation and discrimination, with
most relegated to extreme poverty. Along with all but a few
white women, African Americans were kept out of significant
political power. However, as in many other places since the
Civil War, black men and women in Jacksonville had dem-
onstrated leadership and cooperative action in developing
their own organizations and maintaining a thriving black
community life. Jacksonville blacks participated in politics
when allowed to do so and resisted racial segregation in
usually non-violent ways. Two men raised in Jacksonville,
James Weldon Johnson and A. Philip Randolph, became
national civil rights leaders in the first half of the twentieth
century. The nationally prominent Mary McCleod Bethune








was a frequent visitor to Jacksonville. Although racial violence
in Jacksonville was rare, efforts by blacks towards equal oppor-
tunities were daring since they risked at least economic retali-
ation by whites. As often happened in black communities,
black women played an important part in these activities-
occasionally in visible leadership roles. They were encouraged
by networks of support in national women's groups and
other black organizations.
Sallye Brooks Mathis (1912-1982) and Mary Littlejohn
Singleton (1926-1980) were trained by family and friends
who were active in these community efforts. Sallye Mathis'
mother was among the first women to vote in Jacksonville.
The two young women were trained in black colleges to
serve their communities as teachers. They were examples of
the many African American men and women who quietly
worked hard to build a better life for-the people around
them-especially those in need. Sallye Mathis served her
community for 28 years as a teacher, counsellor and dean in
black schools, and also volunteered in numerous community
service programs. As a teacher, she helped in 1941 with one
of the first successful law suits to win equal pay for black
teachers. After the death of her husband and her retirement
from teaching, Sallye Mathis became more visible as a leader
in the dangerous NAACP protest marches, voter registration
drives and efforts to integrate the schools in Jacksonville. She
was respected for her courage and her ability to work with
white as well as black people.
Mary Singleton worked for over four years as a teacher
and then helped with her husband's business, but she was
primarily known as a supporter of her husband's leadership
in the expanding political activities of blacks. After national
and local court decisions allowed black participation in the
Democratic party in Jacksonville in 1945, blacks organized to
gain benefits for the black community through the power of








their votes. Although men such as Isadore Singleton ran
repeatedly for elective office before 1967, African American
victories were effectively prevented by the at-large voting and
second primary systems. In 1966 there were still only a
handful of black elected officials in Florida and none in
Jacksonville. After her husband's death in 1964, Mary Sin-
gleton moved into political activities in her own right and
was appointed to several civic positions.'
In 1967, Sallye Mathis and Mary Singleton were among
the growing numbers of Southern blacks who were prepared
and willing to accept the mantle of elective office and who
had the name recognition and community respect to get
elected. A combination of factors made their elections pos-
sible in Jacksonville during a successful campaign to reform
and consolidate Jacksonville's city and county government.
The election of these two women in a city-wide, at large,
vote by wide margins was hailed by Florida newspapers as
a sign of an improved racial climate in Jacksonville.2
With their re-election in the fall of 1967 in new single-
member districts, along with the election of two African
American men to the city council and one to the civil service
board, Jacksonville had more black elected officials than any
other town in Florida. Ten other Florida towns had one each,
making sixteen in all. A white woman was elected to the
Duval County school board in 1968, but it was not until 1975
that a white woman was elected to the Jacksonville City
Council.3
Like newly-elected black officials in other places, council
members Mathis and Singleton were faced with translating
their sought-after political power into concrete benefits for
blacks and others in low-income communities. They worked
hard and capably to create a government responsive to all the
people, while building bridges and learning to negotiate in
the political process. They had important successes, although








they were sometimes frustrated by not getting as much help
as they felt was needed in' their long-neglected districts. Many
of the issues they worked on are still major concerns today-
partly because their advice was not always followed.
Yet by their very presence, Sallye Mathis and Mary Sin-
gleton paved the way for other African Americans and other
women in government by symbolizing the growing political
power of these groups and by encouraging other officials to
relate to them as peers. Sallye Mathis continued to be a voice
on the city council for all the people of Jacksonville-par-
ticularly those with special needs-until her death in 1982.
She was pleased to be a delegate to the National Women's
Conference in 1978.
After a redistricting of seats in the Florida legislature, in
1972, Mary Singleton was easily elected from the northern
section of Jacksonville to be the second black woman in the
Florida House of Representatives-the third Florida black
and the first black from North Florida in that body in the
twentieth century. That year, Florida increased its number
of black elected officials from 48 to 58-a number surpassed
by ten other southern states, although blacks still comprised
only 3 percent of the legislatures in the South. She and five
other women were 4.2 percent of the 1973 legislature, and
women were 10 percent of the legislature by 1975. Mary
Singleton took leadership in the passage of important legis-
lation to help all/the people-such as laws to improve the
accountability of the public schools for the education of all
their students. Many of her issues in state government are
also being worked on today.4
In 1976 Mary Singleton was appointed director of Flor-
ida's Division of Elections-the highest level government
post held by an African American in Florida at the time. She
won respect for doing a competent job working with county
supervisors of elections and helping with a major revision of








Florida's election codes. 1978 marked the increased political
power of blacks and women when three of the candidates
for governor chose women as running mates for their vote-
getting strength-one of whom was Mary Singleton. All the
major Democratic candidates also ran on a platform of oppos-
ing racial segregation that year. However, in 1981 there were
still only four blacks in the Florida House of Representatives.
The 110 black elected officials in Florida in 1981 were still
less than three percent of all Florida elected officials.5
The detailed stories of vibrant black communities such'
as in Jacksonville-and black women in particular-are a
rich part of our American heritage, but are too seldom told,
especially in a form available to the public. African American
happenings were considered so unimportant to non-blacks
that Jacksonville's largest newspaper published a separate
black edition until 1966, with the implication that black
events were irrelevant to the rest of the community. About
the history of black people in Jacksonville, there are now two
detailed studies about the post-Civil War period, James Wel-
don Johnson's autobiography (Along This Way), and some
excellent but brief articles in journals regarding certain topics.
There are also some materials about Jacksonville blacks in
books about Florida generally or histories mainly about the
white people in Jacksonville, but little else longer than a few
pages.6 Much more needs to be done to fill in the missing
pages of Jacksonville history, with their lessons for all of us
of courage and perseverance. It is hoped that this study will
encourage others to do their own research, including asking
their older friends and relatives to tell or write their own
stories and to preserve their papers and artifacts that might
be meaningful to others.
This volume is an adaptation of my M.A. thesis com-
pleted in 1988 for the University of Florida-University of
North Florida joint master's-in-history program. The author





xiii


thanks the over one hundred people, black and white, who
graciously granted interviews in person or over the telephone.
Several sent helpful information by letter or tape-recording.
Numerous other people helped with the research, including
staff at the Haydon Burns Public Library, the Thomas G.
Carpenter Library at the University of North Florida, and
the University of Florida Oral History Archives. I am par-
ticularly grateful to Grace Brooks Solomon, sister of Sallye
B. Mathis, who continually gave me information and encour-
agement as well as access to the papers and photographs of
her sister, and to my main advisor, Dr. Daniel L. Schafer of
the University of North Florida, for his advice and patience
during the preparation of the thesis. Appreciation also goes
to Laurie Scott Goodman and Jackie Eldridge for the pho-
tographs of Mary Singleton. Thanks especially go to the
members of the African American community generally in
Jacksonville, for this is mainly their story which I have tried
to reflect.
Barbara H. Walch
August 1990













,U4 f-


;-r -'

I I 1 *









By Wrennie Lamarvin Cistrunk, from the 1989-90 Black History
Calendar cover, sponsored by Florida Community College at
Jacksonville, Southern Bell, and WTLV 12. Clockwise from top
left: James Weldon Johnson, T L. Terry, Afro-American Building,
first Bethel Baptist Church building, Brewster Hospital, Hettie Mills,
Old Stanton High School.








CHAPTER I


Background: African Americans
In Jacksonville

1860-1890
Some insight into the careers of Sallye Brooks Mathis
and Mary Littlejohn Singleton can be found in the heritage
of black people in Jacksonville. African Americans had
arrived with the earliest plantation owners in the Jacksonville
area. They performed much of the labor that built up the
economy as an agricultural and shipping center under Span-
ish, British, and eventually United States control in 1821. In
1860, the port city of Jacksonville was the third largest city
in Florida, with a population of 1,132 whites, 908 slaves and
87 free blacks, while Duval County, where Jacksonville is
located, had 2,924 whites, 2,008 slaves and 162 free blacks.
Both slaves and free blacks were hindered by laws that
restricted their travel, meetings and occupations. During the
Civil War, around 450 black males from Northeast Florida
served in the Union army; some of them were part of the
Union troops that occupied Jacksonville in 1863 and 1864.1
After the Civil War, thousands of blacks and whites
moved to Jacksonville from areas near and far and its pop-
ulation consisted of 3,989 blacks and 2,923 whites by 1870.
Comprising over half the population until after 1910, African
American men and women were vital in the development of
Jacksonville as an important center for shipping and tourism,
as well as in providing much of the routine labor in busi-
nesses and homes. As in previous decades, they were also
important in the production of the agricultural goods and





BACKGROUND


forest products in surrounding areas which helped maintain
Jacksonville and were shipped through its port.2
African Americans in Jacksonville made varied attempts
to become economically independent, as noted in Barbara
Richardson's study, and "achieved impressive, though lim-
ited, economic gains." However, they "did not profit greatly"
from the economic growth of the area because of their lim-
ited training and because of competition from whites. There
was some economic and social upward mobility for blacks,
but it was considerably less than for whites. A group of small
businessmen, clergymen, lawyers, physicians, and skilled or
other regular workers did develop in Jacksonville. La Villa
and Oakland (on the "Eastside") were considered attractive,
stable neighborhoods. Blacks tended to live in black neigh-
borhoods; most lived in severe poverty.3
Several unions among construction and sawmill workers
and longshoremen tried to improve their working conditions
and wages by means of several unsuccessful strikes. Barbara
Richardson noted that the blacks "were economically unable
to carry out effective boycotts or to bring legal action against
white businesses which discriminated against them. Conse-
quently, Black leaders did not often agitate for reform.
Instead, they counseled independence and self-help in mat-
ters of discrimination." 4
As elsewhere, they expounded the basic American values
of hard work, education and personal morality. Many felt
these values would make them more acceptable to whites
and aid their assimilation into American life. Blacks often
added the values of black consciousness and black pride
which served as a buffer against the continuing white
prejudice.5 Excluded from many white activities and services,
African Americans in Jacksonville created their own com-
munity life with organizations and activities to meet their
needs.





1860-1890 3

Black women played important roles in the community.
According to historian Paula Giddings, during the hardships
and insecurities of slavery, Afro-American women had inter-
nalized an inner strength and independence which were also
needed in later years. The ideal of the proper "lady" who
focused on gentle and obedient service within her own
household, as most middle and upper class white wives were
taught, "proved to be nonfunctional" for black women. They
were taught to try to support themselves and they usually
had to since their men were rarely paid enough to take care
of the household. A limited number of black females were
able to get training as teachers or nurses, while black males
were often forced to seek employment at an earlier age. Even
those black women who did not need to work usually chose
to continue their careers. These employed women earned
respect as economic producers in their communities, even
though most had to work at menial jobs in white homes.
Black women were also the mainstays of their families. Black
families were more flexible, however, than the "ideal" white
family model in adapting family roles to meet the needs of
its members, such as other family members helping with
tasks when the women worked outside the home.6 Black
women also had a tradition of active participation in com-
munity affairs. Faced with many needs among their people,
they assumed a third career-the "uplift" of the black race.
They guided and encouraged not only their own children
but others in their neighborhoods and communities. In Jack-
sonville, black women provided leadership and support in
various organizations.7
Of special importance were the churches organized
immediately after the Civil War, such as Bethel Baptist
Church and Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.)
Church. As in the days of slavery, the black church, with its
unique blending of African religious conceptsand orthodox
Christianity, interpreted the Bible in ways that helped people





BACKGROUND


deal with their hardships. Blacks were taught dignity, self-
esteem, confidence in a God of justice and patience in the
churches, which also served as a basis for resisting
oppression.8 After the Civil War the African American
church in Jacksonville was the community's only institution
totally controlled by black people. In the church African
Americans also learned skills of leadership, self-reliance, orga-
nization, and money management. Challenged by white
hostility, the black churches "were the most powerful forces
within the Black community."9

In 1891 Jacksonville had 26 black churches of which 14
were Baptist of various types, eight A.M.E., three Methodist
Episcopal, one Presbyterian, and one Episcopal. There were
also black members of the Catholic Church and some other
groups.10

Church leaders, especially of the A.M.E. and Baptist
churches, were active in economic, educational, and social
welfare efforts in the community. Some clergy became polit-
ical leaders. In 1886 the Colored Pastors Union of Jacksonville
decided to discourage all travel not absolutely necessary by
blacks on segregated railroads."

In addition to economic and church development, black
children and those adults that could attended the few schools
that were available. To meet the need, blacks started some
schools of their own, and educated black and white teachers
came from the North to teach.12 In 1868 blacks took the
initiative for the purchase of property and obtained money
from the Freedmen's Aid Society to erect Stanton Normal
School for eight grades of basic and teacher education. By
December of 1869, the school had 346 students with six
teachers, and in 1870 it became part of the Duval County
school system. In the 1880s, there were also three smaller,
nongraded public schools for black children in Duval County.





1860-1890


The public schools remained segregated and black schools
received much less funding than the white schools did.13
African Americans in Jacksonville also worked to obtain
further education to train teachers, clergy and other leaders.
By 1892 the black churches had founded three secondary
schools which eventually became colleges: Cookman Insti-
tute, Edward Waters College, and Florida Baptist Academy.
Boylan Home Industrial Training School For Girls (later Boy-
lan Haven School for Girls) was started by the Woman's
Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal
Church. It provided a secondary education to black girls
from around Florida until 1958, including Mary Littlejohn
(Singleton) in the 1940s. Black teachers organized a Duval
County Teachers' Association by 1882, and a Florida Tea-
chers' Association in 1889. The various black schools held
public lectures and debates.14
In addition to developing their own businesses, churches,
and schools, blacks dealt with their exclusion from most
white organizations and government aid by creating their
own self-help and charitable organizations. In 1868 black
women organized the Daughters of Israel Society to aid the
burial of destitute blacks, and there were several additional
mutual aid societies by 1900. The Duval Fire Engine Com-
pany sponsored social occasions to raise funds to purchase
a fire engine and construct a fire house. During the 1888
yellow fever epidemic, the Colored Auxiliary Bureau was
started to help with black needs and continued as the Col-
ored Relief Bureau of Jacksonville. Other service organizations
included the Colored Orphan's Home Association, the Col-
ored Law and Order League, and the Colored Medical Pro-
tective Health Association.15
Jacksonville blacks also created social and cultural groups
and programs. James Weldon Johnson, who was born and
raised in Jacksonville and later became a nationally famous




BACKGROUND


writer, diplomat, and civil rights leader, wrote about his expe-
riences while growing up in Jacksonville. He described black-
organized concerts, speeches, debates, and baseball games
which some whites attended during this period. He also
noted the black literary societies, picnics, river rides, black
Masons, Odd Fellow's lodges, and other types of social and
mutual aid groups. Blacks took part in ceremonies in Jack-
sonville to welcome visiting dignitaries such as ex-president
Ulysses S. Grant in 1877 and black civil rights leader Fred-
erick Douglass in 1889. As one writer commented, "Black life
is more than defensive reactions to oppressive circumstances
.... Black life is the rich, colorful creativity that emerged and
reemerges in the Black quest for human dignity."16
In the political arena, blacks in Jacksonville participated
in voting and were able to get some of their numbers into
public positions for a longer time than in other parts of
Florida and most of the South. In 1865 they urged the new
provisional governor of Florida, William T. Marvin, that they
be allowed to vote.'7 Encouraged by the Jacksonville Union
Republican Club, begun in April 1867, they held political
meetings and, by October 1867, 705 of the 1,090 registered
voters in Duval County were African Americans.18
Once allowed to vote by action of the federal government
in 1868, blacks "became a major political factor" as both
Republicans and Democrats tried to win and dominate the
sizeable black vote. Blacks never controlled the government,
however, at the local or state levels, and the Republican party
had a majority in the Florida House of Representatives only
between 1868 and 1872.19
Duval County blacks held various political positions.
They served as delegates to the Florida State Constitutional
Conventions in 1868 and 1885, as members of the Jackson-
ville City Council and the county school board and as mar-
shalls, policemen and other local government officials. In





1860-1890


1888 a municipal judge and several justices of the peace were
blacks.20 The area of La Villa, just west of downtown Jack-
sonville, was a separate governmental unit from 1869 until
it was incorporated into Jacksonville in 1887. With blacks
between 60 and 77 percent of the La Villa population during
those years, blacks were elected mayor (Alfred Grant in
1876), tax collector, tax assessor, treasurer and often alder-
man.21 Jonathan Gibbs of Jacksonville was appointed Sec-
retary of State in 1868. He then served as the Florida
Superintendent of Public Instruction to strengthen the new
public school system in Florida from January 1873 until his
sudden death in August 1874.22 Blacks represented Duval
County in the Florida legislature until the late 1880s, includ-
ing Thomas V. Gibbs in 1887 and John R. Scott, Jr., in
1889.23
After 1876, conservative Democrats gained control in
much of the South, including Jacksonville, where they won
some of the black vote, which had earlier been largely Repub-
lican. Many blacks were critical of the failure of the Repub-
lican party to do more for blacks, but African Americans
continued to send delegates to district and state Republican
conventions and other black and/or Republican meetings.24
According to one historian, "Jacksonville was the one excep-
tion in Florida to the decline in Republican fortunes. Negroes
and white Republicans managed to maintain a voice in Duval
County politics and Jacksonville city politics to a degree
unmatched elsewhere in the state or in the entire South."25
Thus, James Weldon Johnson could say that Jacksonville
was "known far and wide as a good town for Negroes ... long
after the close of the Reconstruction period."26 While he
was growing up in a secure family and neighborhood, he was
aware that not only were "many of the best stalls in the city
market owned and operated by Negroes," but also that they
had important positions in city government. The son of
middle-class parents from the West Indies who enjoyed





BACKGROUND


books, music and interesting people, he felt that the most
fortunate feature of his childhood was that he "was reared
free from undue fear of or esteem for white people as a race."
He also felt that there was a direct relation between the
unusual opportunities for blacks in Jacksonville "and the fact
that Jacksonville was controlled by certain aristocratic families
... who were sensitive to the code, noblesse oblige." Johnson
observed later that when the aristocratic families lost control
to "the poor white," the old conditions changed and Jack-
sonville became "a one hundred percent Cracake t w 27
The political successes made whites fearful of African
American control. During the election of 1888, after many
whites had fled Jacksonville during ~ yrJJow fever epiknmic,
the remaining black majority elected numerous blacks to
government positions. Jacksonville Democrats persuaded the
1889 state legislature to pass a bill to reduce black/Repub-
lican power in Jacksonville. The legislation authorized Gov-
ernor Francis Fleming to appoint a new Jacksonville City
Council of whites, who chose a conservative Democrat as
mayor. The 1889 state legislature also passed other laws to
prevent black/Republican power in all of Florida through
measures such as a poll tax, a multiple ballot system with
separate ballots and ballot boxes for each office, and a five
minute limit for voting. In 1893, the elected mayor and
council were restored to Jacksonville. However, the voting
requirements so limited black voting that they had only
minor influence in the council after that and their votes were
no longer wooed by Republicans or Democrats. Nevertheless,
blacks did continue to register as Republicans or Independ-
ents and vote in general elections. They were allowed to elect
several men to the city council from the predominantly black
Sixth Ward until 1907, when its boundaries were gerryman-
dered to prevent the election of blacks.28
Thus, African American men and women in Jacksonville
made limited gains in employment, education and institu-





1860-1890


tions for religious, charitable and social life after the Civil
War. However, the basic ideals and patterns of white suprem-
acy remained and the temporary possibilities for real political
influence by blacks in Jacksonville disappeared around
1890.29 Yet the removal of former opportunities in politics
was not a total loss, in spite of the tightening of Jim Crow
laws and near total segregation between the races. Black men
and women of Jacksonville could take pride in the quiet
achievements they had made since the Civil War and the
institutions that had been founded. There were numerous
leaders who had gained recognition in the black community
and, for some, in the political life of Jacksonville. There were
many role models for blacks to remember and continue to
observe. Joe M. Richardson pointed out that such things as
"education, experience, and the knowledge of how it feels to
be a free man could not be taken away. The Negro could
view Reconstruction as something to strive for in the future,
or perhaps to look back on with sadness and longing." 30

1890-1940s

As racial segregation and discrimination increased after
1890, African American men and women continued to
develop their own institutions and community life. They
remained a significant portion of the community, numbering
over 50 per cent of the population ofJacksonville in 1900 and
1910, 45 percent in 1920, and 35 percent in 1946.31 After
"the Great Fire" of 1901, black carpenters, masons and other
construction workers helped with the rebuilding of Jackson-
ville and its later expansion. They continued to be a large
part of the work force needed in the development and main-
tenance of the varied industries and homes of this prosperous
city.

In the South, efforts towards civil rights had to be carried
out very quietly, if at all, to avoid severe punishment from





BACKGROUND


whites. Physical violence against blacks in Jacksonville was
only occasional. However, blacks who were bold had to fear
the possibility of physical violence or, more likely, economic
reprisals against themselves and their families. Jerrell H.
Shofner noted that, while many whites in Florida "deplored"
the lynchings and other violence, they "still obeyed the infi-
nite daily reinforcements of their segregated system and
inequalities in jobs and pay."32 For some black leaders, a
spirit of cooperation between the races was seen as the best
way to soften the racism of the times and lead to racial
equality in the future.33
In the area of economics, African Americans in Jackson-
ville were highly influenced by the ideas ofTuskegee Institute
president Booker T. Washington on self-help and economic
gain. They were involved in the founding of the National
Negro Business League by Washington in 1900 as "an orga-
nization by which good business principles might be dissem-
inated among Negroes." 34
Working with Washington was T Thomas Fortune, who
had lived in Jacksonville as a teen-ager. He had married
Carrie Smiley of Jacksonville, and in 1881 moved to New
York City where he became well-known for protesting injus-
tices against blacks as editor of several black newspapers. He
also helped organize several self-help organizations in New
York City which led to the founding in 1910 of both the
National Organization for the Advancement of Colored Peo-
ple (NAACP) and the National Urban League.35
Jacksonville blacks at the group's founding meeting of
the National Business League in Boston also included the
Reverend Jerome Milton Waldron, pastor of Bethel Baptist
Institutional Church from 1892 to 1907, and A. L. Lewis
who later became the league's treasurer. Other early members
of the national group from Jacksonville were attorney D. W
Perkins, George W Powell, and Eartha Mary Magdalene





1890-1940s


White, a businesswoman who became a nationally honored
social worker/humanitarian and was historian of the national
group for many years.36
The League in Jacksonville, known as the "Negro Cham-
ber of Commerce," encouraged the forming of new business
ventures and numerous social and political organizations.
For many years it was one of the strongest chapters of the
League. At the center of the Negro Chamber of Commerce
was Miss White, "for years its most energetic female partic-
ipant and its official historian."37 Like Washington, she
believed that "business success, education, and uplift, could
be effective instruments to combat prejudice in the future."38
Actually, black businesses and organizational life were
strengthened by segregation and the resulting lessened com-
petition from white activities. A state group of the National
Business League was also organized.39
In 1901, at the suggestion of Pastor Jerome Waldron,
seven black businessmen each contributed $100 to found the
Afro-American Life Insurance Company. A. L. Lewis be-
came president of the company, which was worth a million
and a half dollars at his death in 1947 and continued to
prosper under the leadership of his son, James Lewis.40
Brewster Hospital for blacks was opened in Jacksonville
with the help of the (northern) Methodist Women's Home
Missionary Society, and in 1902 established a nursing school
to train black nurses. However, while a few white men sup-
ported black opportunities, city officials were removing
blacks from all but the most menial jobs in city employment.
Most blacks still lived in poverty.41
By 1925 there were approximately 600 businesses owned
and operated by blacks. During the Depression, however,
numerous businesses, especially those of blacks, were forced
to close because of the loss of patronage due to unemploy-
ment and difficulties in securing loans. In 1942 there were





BACKGROUND


359 businesses owned or operated by blacks in Duval County
which employed over 2,000 people.42
In addition to economic ventures, African American men
and women also maintained their efforts to improve various
kinds of religious and educational opportunities for blacks.
By 1910 there were 64 black churches in Jacksonville and by
1936 there were over 200. Some church leaders continued to
assume leadership in developing educational and other
opportunities.43
Besides founding Florida Baptist Academy in 1892,
Bethel Baptist Church became incorporated by the state of
Florida in 1894 in order to carry on "social betterment"
programs and vocational training for chauffeur, business, and
other jobs. Dr. Jerome Waldron, a graduate of Lincoln Uni-
versity and Newton Theological Seminary, believed that
"Bethel should stand as a refutation of racial inferiority and
an an object lesson of the better side of Negro culture and
progress in the South."44
In 1894 James Weldon Johnson graduated from Atlanta
University and became principal of Stanton School, which
had over a thousand students. Johnson quietly added the
high school grades to Stanton, with the white superintend-
ent's knowledge; it became the only public high school for
blacks in Duval County until 1950. Sallye Brooks (Mathis)
graduated from this school in 1930. Johnson was president
of the state Negro Teachers' Association in 1901.45 In 1895
he also started Jacksonville's first black daily newspaper, the
Daily American, in order to argue for black rights and self-
help.46 He passed the state bar exam after being tutored by
a local white lawyer.47
Among the educational and inspirational events held in
the Jacksonville community were the yearly celebrations to
honor the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln
and/or Frederick Douglass to remind blacks of past achieve-




1890-1940s


ments and to honor black leaders. For the 1900 celebration,
Johnson wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which was put
to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson and sung
by the black students. The song spread in popularity until
it was adopted as the official song of the NAACP and called
"The Negro National Anthem."48
African American educators and parents kept on trying
to deal with problems in the public schools, which continued
to be under-funded for staff, buildings and equipment.
Teachers such as Lillian Smalls, who taught first grade from
1933 to 1976, purchased specially lined paper and other
supplies for students from their own meager pay. Parents in
Florida were expected to purchase the textbooks for their
children until 1925. After that black students used books
discarded from the white schools until the late 1940s. Amy
Stewart Currie, who taught at Stanton High school from
1925 to 1967, remembered coming to school early to erase
the negative words white student had written in them before
her students could see them. Dr. Charles Brooks, who was
principal of several Jacksonville schools, including Stanton
High School from 1940 to 1969, noted that these were the
days when blacks could only be teachers, except for an occa-
sional doctor, preacher, or lawyer, since there was no other
training available for them. However, Stanton High School
and private schools for blacks taught pride in black writers
and history.49
In 1927 a Florida Conference of Colored Parents and
Teachers was founded by Jacksonville teachers, including
Mary White Blocker, who became its first president. Dr.
Charles Brooks said that the P.TA.'s purchased helpful equip-
ment for the schools, such as Stanton High School's first
water cooler in 1946, its first air conditioning in the 1950s,
and the first and only organ in the public schools, upon
which most of the organists in the local black churches
learned to play.50




BACKGROUND


In addition to economic, religious and educational activ-
ities, African American men and women in Jacksonville
continued to develop charitable ventures. Stressing racial sol-
idarity and self-help, blacks urged each other to help the
needy, especially, since blacks were generally denied the ser-
vices of white organizations and tax-supported programs.51
A person who gave outstanding leadership in the service
of Jacksonville's needy people was Eartha Mary Magdalene
White (1876-1974). She began by helping her mother, Clara
White, feed hungry people at their home. Educated in Jack-
sonville and New York City, she taught school for a few years.
Then she began various successful business ventures that
helped support her charitable work for the next 75 years. In
1900 she helped organize a Colored Citizens Protective
League. In 1901 she revived the Union Benevolent Associ-
ation, which had been founded in 1875 to care for needy
blacks. She and her mother raised money for the construction
of the Colored Old Folks Home in 1902. According to
teacher Amy Stewart Currie, the first officers of the Old
Folks' Home were all women.52
For many years, Eartha White started and operated
numerous service programs, such as the only "colored orphan-
age" in the area, possibly in the state. She organized various
forms of public recreation for black children and led in
lobbying for better treatment of prisoners and other needy
people in Florida. She visited the Duval County prison farm
every Sunday and arranged Christmas dinners and programs
for the nursing homes, prison farm, and various house-bound
people. She always served the needy of all races, since she
did not believe in segregation.53
During World Wars I and II, African Americans in
Jacksonville contributed impressive amounts to war bond
drives, patriotic programs and services to black and white
soldiers. Eartha White took leadership in these activities.54





1890-1940s


The Young Women's Christian Association (Y.WC.A.), that
had been started by the (white) Woman's Club of Jackson-
ville in 1911, helped blacks to begin local Y.WC.A. work
with black women and girls in 1919. By 1936 there were 250
black members of the Y.WC.A.'s Girls Reserve in
Jacksonville.55
The local Welfare Federation, founded in 1915, began
the Jacksonville Community Chest in 1924 and included a
Colored Division. The division worked with the Jacksonville
Negro Welfare League, founded in 1925, to raise $16,000 in
money and pledges in 1926 from the black community and
more from whites. The charities benefited were the Old
Folks Home, the Sunshine Day Nursery serving 3500 chil-
dren, Brewster Hospital, Traveler's Aid and the Christmas
Charity Club. An interracial committee was discussing com-
munity issues at the time.56
In 1928 Eartha White and her friends established the
Clara White Mission at Ashley and Broad Streets to continue
the giving of food and clothing to the needy that she and
her mother had offered through the years out of their home.
Miss White lived at this site until her death in 1974, and the
mission "became the headquarters" for the activities she
headed or sponsored for people of all races. These activities
included a maternity home, a child placement center and
orphan home, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Community center,
a tuberculosis rest home, buildings for child care centers,
and a black history museum. There were also food lines and
programs of the Works Progress Administration during the
1930s, and U.S.O. and Red Cross activities for blacks during
World War II. The Eartha M. M. White Nursing Home was
completed in 1967.57
In 1942 African Americans were welcomed at occasional
integrated events in Jacksonville sponsored by the Ministerial
Alliance, the Religious Council of Women, the Y.WC.A. and





BACKGROUND


the Boy Scouts. Minnie Louise Wade, who came to Jackson-
ville in 1919, said that "integration really began at the end
of World War II when some whites as well as blacks felt that
if blacks could serve and die in the Armed Forces they
should have rights." In 1946 blacks attended programs in
Jacksonville of the Florida Council of Church Women (which
later became Church Women United), the National Confer-
ence of Christians and Jews and some other religious
groups.58 There was also an integrated Friday prayer group
of Christian and Jewish leaders which worked quietly with
other concerned blacks and whites. They helped to obtain
more equal funding for schools and street lights, black police-
men in 1950, and private donations for the black library and
playgrounds.59 In 1946 an interracial group of prominent
citizens, at the urging of black leaders, participated in an
extensive survey of community needs by the local Council
of Social Agencies. This survey led to the formation of a
Jacksonville chapter of the National Urban League in 1947.60

Among the organizations and activities that blacks in
Jacksonville continued to develop, some were primarily social
but most combined social with educational or charitable
goals to help the community. Through these groups, blacks
increased their knowledge of public affairs and gained lead-
ership experience. In 1912 and 1913, the Free and Accepted
Masons of Florida, organized in Jacksonville in 1870, built
a four-story building at Broad and Duval Streets which could
be used for community meetings. A national black newspa-
pers of the era, the New York Age, described Jacksonville as
"segregated but far better than South Florida or Georgia."61

By 1926 there were 28 black fraternal orders represented
in Jacksonville. In 1927, some local blacks opened their own
Lincoln Golf and Country Club since they were not allowed
to play at white clubs. Black fraternities and sororities for
college students and alumni provided new networks of friend-





1890-1940s


ship, inspiration and support for various civic activities. By
1941 there were over 150 clubs for blacks in Jacksonville.62
African American women in Jacksonville, as elsewhere,
organized some separate organizations. They had frequent
contacts with the national black women's club movement.
Mrs. M. E. Smith, who had come from the North as a
teacher for the Freedman's Bureau, organized the M. E.
Smith Club in Jacksonville as part of the Afro-American
Woman's Club in 1896, and has been noted as the first club
woman in Florida.63 Eartha White and Sara A. Blocker of
Jacksonville were listed as early leaders of the National Asso-
ciation of Colored Women, organized in 1896. This group
united several national and over 100 local groups in order "to
combat racial discrimination and to express a sense of iden-
tity and solidarity among black women on a national level."64
It represented over 50,000 black women in over 1,000 clubs
in 28 state federations by 1914. The association provided
"expert leadership and example to local women" and encour-
aged self-improvement, black pride and community involve-
ment.65 At the second annual session of the Florida
Federation of Colored Women in 1910, four of the eight
officers were from Jacksonville. In 1913, Margaret Murray
Washington, prominent educator and wife of Booker T. Wash-
ington, spoke in Jacksonville at the City Federation of Col-
ored Women's Clubs.66
Jacksonville blacks had close ties with one of the most
prominent black women in the country through her school
and the club movement-Mary McCleod Bethune (1875-
1955). In 1904 Mrs. Bethune founded a school for the young
daughters of the black railroad workers in Daytona Beach,
Florida, which became the Daytona Normal and Industrial
Institute for Girls. In 1923 her school merged with the
Methodist-funded Cookman Institute for Boys of Jacksonville
to become Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach.
Through the years, Mrs. Bethune made regular trips to Jack-





BACKGROUND


sonville and got support for her school, especially from
Methodist Episcopal and A.M.E. churches.67
In 1917 Mary McLeod Bethune was elected president of
the Florida Federation of Colored Women's Clubs (with
Eartha White as treasurer). In 1920 she organized the South-
east Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, called "one of
the most active groups in the club movement." Under her
leadership the federation held programs addressing various
types of discrimination issues.68 She became the eighth pres-
ident of the National Association of Colored Women from
1924 to 1928. It was this position that catapulted her into
prominence and gained her the attention of the national
press and the friendship of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.69
From 1927 to 1935, Mrs. Bethune worked towards the
founding of the National Council of Negro Women as a
cohesive umbrella for women's groups already in existence,
to enhance their ideals and cooperation and help them apply
for federal funds. In 1936 President Franklin Roosevelt
appointed her director of the Negro Division of the National
Youth Administration-the first black to hold such a high-
level federal position. During World War II she had several
additional national positions. She also organized White
House Conferences at which black women could express
their views.70
With her frequent visits, speeches and close friendships
in Jacksonville, Mrs. Bethune was clearly a role model who
inspired other blacks. She stayed with her "very close friend"
Eartha White when in town and worked with her in a lot
of clubs. Dr. Charles Brooks commented that, "although she
never told me, I think Sallye Mathis used Mrs. Bethune as
her role model. She was almost a mimic of her." Both were
"excellent, regal" speakers.7
As African American women and men in Jacksonville
worked to meet the various needs of their community, they





1890-1940s


continued to make use of the limited political opportunities
available to them. By 1901 blacks were definitely excluded
from the Democratic party and its primary elections, where
the decisive political decisions were made, for the next 44
years. The Republican party in general no longer really
wanted black support and no longer had political power in
the South, but a few local blacks remained active in the
party. Attorney Joseph E. Lee was appointed by Republican
presidents to the posts of Customs Collector for the Port of
St. John's in 1890 and Collector of Internal Revenue for
North Florida between 1898 and 1912. He was chosen local
and district Republican party chairman for many years and
secretary of the Republican state executive committee until
his death in 1920. The Reverend John R. Scott was Deputy
Collector of Internal Revenue between 1903 and 1912, and
chairman of the Duval County Republican Executive Com-
mittee in the 1920s.72
White control of politics in Duval County was again
threatened in 1920 when the Nineteenth Amendment for
women's suffrage passed. Much of the opposition to the
amendment had come from the South where whites feared
the votes of black women, already active in their commu-
nities. Black women such as Mary McLeod Bethune had
been active in the Equal Suffrage League, formed by the
National Association of Colored Women. Also, by February
1920, 200 black men had already paid their poll taxes in
Duval County, compared to 500 white men who had done
so. Eartha White, who had long been an active Republican
precinct worker, was in charge of the Negro Republican
Women Voters in 1920. When the black women were forced
to stand in long lines in the sun in order to register to vote,
she encouraged them with buckets of cold lemonade.73 The
New York Age said that the high black registration in Jack-
sonville was a sign of "an exceptional black electorate at a
time when many Southern blacks could not vote at all."74





BACKGROUND


Black women who were registered to vote in Jacksonville,
mostly as Republicans, numbered about half of the new
women voters by October 1920. Local Democrats then
founded the Duval County League of Democratic Women
Voters in order to preserve white supremacy and Democratic
control, with encouragement from the editor of the Florida
Times-Union. Judge John W Dodge urged women to vote
Democratic in order to repay the "white men of the South
who for fifty years have done all in their power to protect
you from the unmorality (sic), savagery and beastly charac-
teristic of an inherently vicious black characteristic."75 The
attitudes of some whites were also shown that fall when
three blacks accused of murder were taken from the jail in
Jacksonville and lynched.76

African Americans continued to participate in politics in
Duval County, in spite of hindrances by whites. Eartha
White became the only woman member of the Duval
County Republican Executive Committee and in 1928 was
the state chairman of the National League of Republican
Colored Women.77 Although she was among those blacks
who worked for the Republican party for many years, she
and other black leaders generally "fell in line with whoever
was in office," since they needed white help for their phi-
lanthropic programs.78 A number of blacks in the 1980s re-
membered paying the poll tax before 1938, standing in long
lines, and feeling the indignity of having to enter the election
building through the back alleys and the back door in order
to vote. The elimination of the poll tax by the Florida leg-
islature in 1937 (27 years before the U. S. constitutional
amendment) increased opportunities for black voting. How-
ever, it was not until the all-white Democratic primary was
declared unconstitutional in 1944 that blacks could have a
significant influence in the more powerful Democratic party
and its primaries.79





1890-1940s


Also motivating contemporary and future blacks in
Jacksonville were occasional, more obvious protest activities
by some of their numbers. Open protests by Jacksonville
blacks were rare. James Weldon Johnson wrote about a group
of blacks who threatened to shoot from the rooftops around
the jail in Jacksonville and stopped white "crackers" from
lynching a black who was in jail there in the summer of 1898.
Alonzo Jones, who had been on the Police Commission in
1887 and was a Sunday School superintendent at his church,
had ordered rifles for the blacks earlier. One of the armed
blacks that day was Pastor James Randolph, father of A.
Philip Randolph (later a national civil rights leader). Jones
was "punished" by being charged with a high enough bond
to ruin him financially.80
The biggest, open protests by blacks in Jacksonville in
the early twentieth century were their boycotts of the street-
cars in 1901 and 1905. Then the Jacksonville City Council
passed ordinances for the racial segregation of streetcars in
spite of the bitter opposition of the black councilmen. Encour-
aged by black ministers and aided by black hackmen of the
Coachmen's Union, the boycott was so effective that after a
few months the city authorities ceased enforcing the ordi-
nance. Although not part of the boycott, Robert R. Robinson
and other blacks organized a trolley company which ran four
trolleys on a regular schedule from 1902 to 1905.81 When
the Florida legislature passed a streetcar segregation bill in
1905, Jacksonville blacks again boycotted streetcars. They
also initiated a court suit. Yet their efforts were defeated by
new segregation ordinances in Jacksonville and Pensacola
which were approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 1906.
Eartha White, the James Randolph family and some others
determined to never ride a streetcar again and apparently did
not.82
Jacksonville blacks were well aware of the activities of
James Weldon Johnson, who moved from Jacksonville to





BACKGROUND


New York City in 1902 and achieved national prominence
as a black leader. He filled consulship positions in Venezuela
and later in Nicaragua from 1906 until 1913. Then, as editor
of the influential New York Age, founded 30 years earlier by
T Thomas Fortune, Johnson became more militant in his
writings against racial injustice. In 1916 he was ready to
become Field Secretary of the NAACP. In this position he
became very active in the demanding and dangerous work
of national leadership-organizing new NAACP branches
and supporting local branches in their non-violent struggles
against inequality. One of his projects was the silent parade
in New York City in 1917 to protest the lynchings of blacks
in East Saint Louis. Skillful in convincing both blacks and
whites to work together, he was the guiding force in the
intense lobbying for the Dyer anti-lynching bill that nearly
passed Congress, 1918-24. Johnson was Executive Secretary
of the NAACP from 1920 to 1930. Emphasizing the contrib-
utions of black people to American life, he played a leading
role in the so-called "Harlem Renaissance" with his own
writings and his support of other black writers and artists.83
Peaceful struggle for equal rights in Jacksonville was not
dead. In 1914 there was a Jacksonville branch of the NAACP,
with the Reverend John R. Scott as president. A.M.E. Bishop
Johnnie Gray took leadership in the early 1920s, as did Dr.
C. F. Duncan in the early 1930s. The Jacksonville NAACP
does not seem to have tried open protests until the 1940s.
However, Eartha White became Florida director of the Anti-
Lynching Crusaders Committee in 1922.84
In 1938 the Reverend Robert T Thomas was president
of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, with C.A. Gibbs,
treasurer of Edward Waters College, as secretary. In 1941
Thomas was still president, with Mr. O. J. Smith as secretary.
Noah W Griffin, executive secretary of the Florida State
Teachers Association (FSTA), represented Jacksonville at
national NAACP meetings in 1941 and 1942 with his wife,





1890-1940s


Theresa Griffin. A cousin of Ola Mae Caesar's, Griffin had
lost his job as a school principal in St. Petersburg because
of his leadership as president of the FSTA in trying to
equalize the salaries of black and white teachers. In 1943,
Pastor H. F. Coleman represented the Jacksonville branch
which had between 100 and 500 members at the time. Jack-
sonville attorney S. D. McGill was on the Legal Committee
of the national NAACP.85

For many years, Mrs. Arnolta Johnston Williams, wife
of physician I. E. Williams and active participant in many
community service organizations, secretly used a pen name
to report local black news for the Pittsburgh Courier as Jack-
sonville representative of the Associated Negro Press. From
around 1949 to 1953, Eric Simpson, editor of the Florida Star
of Jacksonville, also reported for and distributed the
Pittsburgh Courier, which was the main printed source of
news from black perspectives in Jacksonville and many other
places.86

In 1936, African American labor won an important
national and local victory under the leadership of another
black from Jacksonville, A. Philip Randolph. He had been
raised in Jacksonville and graduated (as valedictorian) from
Cookman Institute in 1907. His father, a minister at New
Hope A.M.E. Church, had urged his children to refrain from
using segregated facilities such as the library. In 1911 he
moved to New York where he became known as an outspo-
ken orator and editor on behalf of black workers. In 1925,
with encouragement from Jacksonville porters, Randolph
organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. After
twelve years of struggle, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car
Porters finally won the first-ever contract between an African
American union and a major corporation, the Pullman Com-
pany, in 1937. The Ladies Auxiliary was said to be indispens-
ible in the efforts in Jacksonville and other places.87





BACKGROUND


In 1936 the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters became
the first predominantly black union to receive an interna-
tional charter from the American Federation of Labor (AFL).
When the AFL merged with the Congress of Industrial
Organizations (CIO) in 1955, he eventually became one of
the two black vice-presidents of the AFL-CIO, and con-
tinued to press for the elimination of racism in unions.
Marsha Dean Phelts, a past Jacksonville and Florida president
of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, said that Randolph

was the most significant factor in creating a middle-
class life for many blue-collar blacks, in addition to
the few black professionals. When the porters were
able to get decent wages for their work and their
extra hours away from home they were able to buy
homes and send some of their children to college.88

In 1941, Randolph revived the strategy of nonviolent,
mass protest and led in the organizing of a March on Wash-
ington by blacks to protest the exclusion of black workers
from jobs in the defense industries. Meeting with President
Franklin Roosevelt, he refused to call off the demonstration
until after the president issued an executive order banning
discrimination in defense industries and government and
established the nation's first committee on Fair Employment
Practices. Randolph's March on Washington Movement,
which included Eartha White and several other Jacksonville
blacks, held mass meetings in various cities and pressed for
further desegregation. In 1948, Randolph threatened Presi-
dent Harry S. Truman that, if segregation in the armed forces
was not abolished, masses of blacks would refuse induction.
Truman then issued Executive Order 9981 which abolished
segregation in the U. S. Armed Forces. Visiting Jacksonville
every year, Randolph spoke at Stanton High School, churches,
and meetings of the local Brotherhood of Sleeping Car
Porters.89





1890-1940s


Jacksonville NAACP members helped with an anti-seg-
regation court suit in 1946. It began in Jacksonville when
Berta Mae Watkins was taken off a train in Jacksonville and
was arrested and later convicted of not moving to the Jim
Crow car. A redcap phoned Theodore Redding, president of
the Jacksonville NAACP from 1943 to 1952, who had
returned to his native Jacksonville after earning a teaching
certificate at Northwestern University. He had been chosen
as president of the Jacksonville NAACP because he dared
to drink from "white" water fountains and had been put off
the trolley cars several times for sitting in the "white" sec-
tion. Redding persuaded a white lawyer to pay her bond, and
a suit against the city was filed with the help of the NAACP.
The suit unsuccessful, but when Mrs. Watkins returned to
New York, she filed a suit against the railroad in the Federal
District Court for the Southern District of New York. This
action led, along with other suits, to the desegregation of
transportation.90
Other NAACP activities in Jacksonville in the 1940s
included mass meetings, marches and the writing of letters,
such as commending people for helping blacks. As elsewhere,
NAACP pressure for better school facilities led to some new
schools for blacks and other improvements by whites officials
who wanted to avoid integration. NAACP youth activities
helped prepare future leaders.91
Thus African American men and women in Jacksonville
had a history of creating their own community life and devel-
oping organizations and activities to meet their needs in the
face of white racism and segregation. They resisted the lim-
itations imposed on them and participated in the wider com-
munity life and politics when they were permitted to do so.
Many ordinary and well-known men and women in Jackson-
ville thus became role models of positive achievement and
community service to contemporary and future generations
of blacks such as Mary Singleton and Sallye Mathis.


























































-,I


Mary (right) and sister Hannah Littlejohn.


~K


i
i
L
;

4







CHAPTER II


Mary Littlejohn Singleton

Mary Littlejohn (Singleton) and Sallye Brooks (Mathis)
were both raised in this dynamic African American commu-
nity in Jacksonville, although their paths were basically sep-
arate until 1967. Mary Eleanor Littlejohn was born into an
old "pioneer" family of Jacksonville. Her maternal grand-
father, Charles Frank Crowd, came from Boston to Jackson-
ville in 1872. He started a successful barbershop on Bay
Street where he made long-lasting friendships with many of
his white customers. He also ran the Bijou Theatre in 1909
and built and operated the Globe Theatre in 1912 and 1914.
In 1887 Crowd married Mary E. Wilson of Jacksonville and
eventually settled in a home on Florida Avenue on the "East-
side" of Jacksonville. The area was then considered "one of
Jacksonville's most stable black neighborhoods, with shopping
areas, restaurants and churches not far from tidy homes."1
Raiford Brown, another successful African American
barbershop owner, said that Frank Crowd was "a brilliant
man" and that "Mary got her articulation from her grand-
father." The Crowd's were active in Mt. Zion African Meth-
odist Episcopal Church on Union Street and in other
community activities. Frank Crowd was on the committee
for the local Emancipation Proclamation celebration in
1913.2
Mary Littlejohn's mother, Laura, was one of Frank
Crowd's nine children and grew up in the home on Florida
Avenue. She attended Boylan Haven Industrial Training
School for Girls which was run by the (northern) Methodist
Episcopal Church, along with other girls from "lower-





28 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

middle-and upper-income families."3 "Attendance at Boylan-
Haven meant status in the black community, as well as a
long-lasting sisterhood." Laura Crowd taught at Boylan-
Haven school in 1925 before her marriage to Harry
Littlejohn.4
Harry C. Littlejohn, Mary's father, was also from a respec-
ted Jacksonville family-that of Davis and Hannah Littlejohn.
Harry Littlejohn was born in Gaffney, in Cherokee County,
South Carolina, and came to Jacksonville in 1910 at the age
of seven with his parents. His father was a laborer. One of
six children, Harry Littlejohn went to Catholic schools, and
sold newspapers-the old Florida Metropolis-for ten cents
a paper, six days a week. As an adult he worked for the U.
S. Postal Service as a mail carrier for 37 years, from 1923
until 1960. After his retirement, he worked as an investigator
for the state attorney and bailiff and in a program to solve
problems before court hearings. Harry and his brother
Gabunion (Gay) Littlejohn were charter members of the
Imperial Dragons Club, a social organization of letter carriers.
Harry Littlejohn was also a member of the Fraternal Order
of the Police and of Letter Carriers' Association Branch No.
53, which was started by African Americans and by 1941
had integrated membership and leadership. He was also a
member of the Fla.-Jax. Club, a social-civic club. He taught
Hettie Mills to play the violin well enough so that she won
a music scholarship to Florida A. and M. University.5
Mary Eleanor Littlejohn was born on September 20,
1926, and grew up with her only sibling, Hannah, who was
15 months younger. Their neighbors on Florida Avenue were
teachers, nurses, and postal service, railroad and insurance
employees. Most were educated beyond high school. Besides
being close to the Crowd relatives, Mary and Hannah were
"like sisters" with the Littlejohn cousins. There were the
three daughters of Leo and Blanche Littlejohn and especially
the son of Gabunion (Gay) and Elinor B. Littlejohn, Francis







X. Littlejohn, who was five years younger than Mary and
lived nearby. The cousins spent summers with their Little-
john grandmother in the country-in Greenland, southeast
of Jacksonville. Francis Littlejohn thought that being in the
country influenced Mary, as well as himself, to be "a person
of Nature" who "loved to grow" plants. She majored in
horticulture in college, as he did later, and both taught
science in the Duval County schools.6
In addition to her extended family, young Mary Little-
john developed school, church, and other roots in her com-
munity. Her early schooling was at the Franklin Street School,
which was at the site of the former Florida Baptist Academy.
The school was later called the Matthew W Gilbert Junior-
Senior High School. Harry Littlejohn took his girls every
week to St. Pius the Fifth Catholic Church, where Mary was
an active member all her life. Laura Littlejohn remained
active in Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church with the Crowd family.
Mary Littlejohn also participated in the Girl Scouts around
the ages of 11 to 13, along with Elizabeth Butler Jones.7
Mary Littlejohn was also influenced by community lead-
ers and the interest of her family in helping needy people.
When prominent citizens were paying tribute to Miss Eartha
Mary Magdalene White at the age of 97 in 1974, Mary L.
Singleton said, "I've known her since I was a little girl. My
grandfather was one of her main contributors in the days
when she was forming soup kitchens." Mary's aunt, Mary E.
(Mamie) Crowd, who managed Frank Crowd's barbershop
from his death in 1927 until her death in 1963, was a member
of the Board of Directors of the Clara White Mission for
many years. She took leadership in activities at the mission,
such as the yearly Christmas parties. After she died in 1963,
the drinking fountain at the mission was dedicated in her
memory.8 While Mary L. Singleton later acknowledged "that
she had never personally experienced poverty, she said she
had been 'surrounded by poverty all my life. That's why I




30 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

do a lot of giving."'9 From seventh to twelfth grades, Mary
Littlejohn went with her sister Hannah to Boylan-Haven
Industrial Training School, since there was no Catholic high
school for blacks in Jacksonville at the time. She explained:
We were Catholic, but the Catholic schools were
segregated. My mother went to that school and
taught there. It was [mostly] a boarding school with
students from all over the country and more white
than black teachers. The teachers had to stay at the
school and they had fantastic relationships. It was a
tough school, with grammar and Latin. You had to
dot the I's and cross the T's. If we had more of that
today we wouldn't have so many dropouts.10
Another student at Boylan-Haven at the time was Gwen-
dolyn Sawyer (later Cherry) from Miami who became the
first black woman in the Florida House of Representatives
in 1970.11
Louise Singletary Brown, a student at Boylan-Haven from
1922 to 1931, returned as one of the first black teachers there,
from 1935 to 1944, to teach English, Latin, grammar and
African American history. Offering a college-preparatory edu-
cation, the school adhered to state standards and stressed
academics and homework. Besides daily worship, there were
also classes in Bible, music, sewing and cooking. There was
no corporal punishment; sending for parents was enough to
deal with problems. Much more black history and culture
was included than in the public schools, Louise Brown said,
and students were encouraged to attend all the cultural events
in the community, such as programs by the Fisk Jubilee
Singers, the Morehouse College Glee Club, Roland Hayes,
and black authors Zora Neale Hurston and Jesse Faucett.
The 1946 report, "Jacksonville Looks at Its Negro Commu-
nity," by the local Council of Social Agencies, commented
that Boylan-Haven School, which had a Southern white








woman as superintendent and a "bi-racial faculty [which]
has functioned here harmoniously for sixty years, ... is a
bright spot in the local educational picture."12
Louise Brown said that while at Boylan-Haven, Mary's
sister, who later led a more traditional life as the wife of a
doctor in Chicago, was very, very bright, while Mary Little-
john seemed rather dull at the time. Her grades were poor
and once she almost didn't get promoted. After that, "Mary
kept up all right, although it seemed to require a great deal
of effort," Mrs. Brown said.13
Hattie Daniels Stewart, who was also in Mary's class of
seventeen at Boylan-Haven, remembered that "Mary was
well-liked-always gregarious, out-going, likeable, and some-
times a little devilish" and distracting in class. When she put
her mind to her studying, she could do it. "She was always
instigating something" such as a party or a field trip. She got
her humor from her mother, who was also "a talker," Hattie
Stewart said. "We were surprised when she went into poli-
tics." Mary Littlejohn was very good at sports, such as kick-
ball, acrobatics, and soccer. "A big and hardy girl, about five
feet, nine inches," she was healthy and robust like her father,
said Mrs. Stewart. In public speaking debates in school,
"Mary would hate to get up and speak, since she always felt
she was too big, too tall and gawky." Later she became "a
very natural speaker." 4
During high school, Mary Littlejohn had many admiring
boy friends, and was demanding and hard to please, Hattie
Stewart remembered.
When we started dating, we would meet at Mary's
house. We would catch a cab to one of the two
theatres, the 'Strand' or the 'Frolic'. We had parties
at each others' houses ... or had a big Saturday-night
date. We would go early and get back early. In those
days you could ride all over the city for 25 cents.15





32 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

When Mary Littlejohn was 15, her picture was in a
special Jacksonville issue of The Crisis of the NAACP for
being third, with 307 votes, in a contest for "Miss Jackson-
ville". As Harry Littlejohn noted, "in those days everybody
knew everybody and when anybody did anything (good or
bad) it was known. We never had any trouble."16

The Reverend Charles B. Dailey, pastor of the First Bap-
tist Church of Oakland on the "Eastside" of Jacksonville,
commented that

Mary's family was one of the fine families-some-
what definitive of the contributions of this commu-
nity-hardworking, godfearing people, believing in
the educational process and motivated to make sac-
rifices for the advantages of education of their chil-
dren. She is a product of that kind of background,
which is not often believed about this community.
Mary represents the kind of potential existing in a
lot of people. I'm thankful that she had the oppor-
tunity to develop it.17

After her high school graduation in 1943, Mary Littlejohn
went to Hampton Institute in Virginia, for two years. Her
father paid the fees and she majored in horticulture-express-
ing her interest in growing plants. Both she and Hannah,
who joined her there the next year, were members of the
Phyllis Wheatley Society, which involved mostly social activ-
ities, joint studying and some community service. Mary Lit-
tlejohn was chosen as "Miss Agriculture" for Homecoming
one year.18

Mary Littlejohn left Hampton Institute at the end of her
second year because her grades were then poor. She took a
sales job at a local store, but soon entered Florida A. and
M. University in Tallahassee where she received her B.S.
degree in May 1949.19






































































Mary E Littlejohn, Third in balloting for "Miss Jacksonville" with
307 votes, 1941. From The Crisis (NAACP), January 1942.


-"
, i





34 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

While a student at Florida A. and M. University, Mary
Littlejohn married David Paschal, a young music student.
Their daughter Carol was born July 28, 1949. Following
graduation, the Paschal's moved to Jacksonville where they
lived in an apartment in the Afro-American Life Insurance
Building while David Paschal taught band at Matthew W
Gilbert Junior-Senior High School. When the couple sepa-
rated, Mary Paschal moved with her baby to her parents'
house, began teaching, and got a divorce in June 1951.20
From 1951 until December 1955 she taught at Matthew
W Gilbert Junior-Senior High School-the school building
she had attended during her elementary school years. Doris
Avery Jones, who taught with Mary Paschal at Matthew W
Gilbert during part of that time, recalled that she was well-
liked by the students and the faculty. She was "a very easy-
going, likeable person-always a part of after-school events."
She was "always willing to help anybody," and known for
often bringing good refreshments.21
While she was teaching at Gilbert, Mary Paschal met
Isadore Singleton and married him in 1955. Isadore and his
twin brother Theodore were born in 1921 near Greenwood,
Mississippi-the youngest of nine children-and they grad-
uated from high school in Greenwood. While serving in the
U. S. Navy from 1939 to 1945, Isadore Singleton studied
business procedures and public speaking and starred on
football teams. He was also middle-weight boxing champion
of several ships and bases, including the cruiser, USS Atlanta,
President Roosevelt's flag-ship. According to his older brother,
Earnest Singleton, "one of Isadore's favorite keepsakes was a
picture of himself being congratulated by President Roose-
velt after winning a state championship." He later claimed
that this incident, "his first contact with anyone in political
life, was the basis of his lifetime interest in and love of
politics." His son, Isadore Singleton (Jr.), explained also that
his father had seen a lot of prejudice and segregation while







in the Navy, such as segregated basketball teams. He was
sure that the desire to end segregation influenced his father
more than anything else to get into politics.22
Isadore Singleton's home port for two years was Mayport,
Florida, in the northeast corner of Duval County. As a "Stew-
ard, First Class," the top rating for African Americans in the
war years, he supervised the purchase of foods for his ship.
He had the weekends free to make many friends in Jackson-
ville, including Charles E. Lott and other local black poli-
ticians. He also worked at a local barbeque restaurant.23
After his discharge in 1945, Isadore Singleton joined his
sister and several brothers in Detroit. He worked briefly as
circulation promoter for the Detroit office of the Pittsburgh
Courier, a weekly black newspaper sold nationally. Then he
opened a small advertising copier printing office of his own.
In 1946 he became active in the campaign of a candidate for
governor of Michigan.24
"The late forties were not conducive to the success of
a young black man with little money trying to make it as an
entrepreneur," wrote Ernest Singleton. So, "still nurturing his
fondness for Jacksonville, Isadore returned there in 1948." He
was hired again in the barbeque cafe where he had worked
earlier. Within a short time he opened his own place, "Supe-
rior Barbeque," at 33rd Street and Moncrief Avenue. He
developed a sauce of his own and did so well that by 1955
he opened two more barbeque establishments-on Broad
Street and on Florida Avenue. In 1958 he opened another
one on West Ashley Street and in 1961 a fifth one on Edge-
wood Avenue. For the well-publicized opening of his fifth
place, he advertised barbeque ribs and chicken, beef and pig
on-the-bun, French fries and sandwiches, from 11 A.M. to
2 A.M. He also did "distinctive catering for parties." Through
his business, including catering, Isadore Singleton and his
family made friends around Jacksonville.25





36 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

Don Trednick, president of Jax Liquors, was Isadore
Singleton's main financial backer as well as a good friend. He
was a regular customer of Singleton's businesses-often hir-
ing him to cater at his parties. The two gave each other
advice and support in their respective businesses in the
black areas. Trednick called him "a first-class man-honor-
able, decent, honest human being, who could be trusted to
stick by his word." Some blacks did not favor Singleton's
helping Trednick buy land in the black community for his
liquor business.26
While Isadore Singleton was developing his businesses,
Mary played supportive roles. After their marriage, he asked
her not to work outside the family, since he wanted her to
help him at home and with the barbeque business. He
adopted Carol, and their son, Isadore, Jr., was born in 1956.
Ernest Singleton noted that
Mary kept the books, paid the bills, did the banking
and ran the home while rearing two children, while
Isadore did the buying, supervised the help and kept
promoting the business, ... as well as investing in
local land in various parts of the city .... A very
successful and happy marriage it was!27
Isadore Singleton became active in various community
activities during his years in Jacksonville. He was a president
of the Jacksonville Negro Chamber of Commerce, a president
of the Mary McCleod Bethune Elementary School Parent
Teachers Association, chairman of the 1959 March of Dimes
drive in the black community, area coordinator for the Peace
Corps, and a member of the board of directors of Brewster
Hospital. He was also a member of the James Weldon John-
son branch of the Y.M.C.A., the Fla.-Jax. Club, and Mt.
Ararat Baptist Church.28
However, next to his family and business, it was politics
that Isadore Singleton loved. Charles E. Lott, who was active







in local politics for many years, had gotten acquainted with
Singleton during his years at Mayport Naval station. "After
Singleton established his business," said Lott,
he said he would like to get into politics here. Since
I had a job where I couldn't do much [publicly], I
pushed him-and introduced him to people. He
became a committeeman in the adjoining precinct
next to mine and we worked together. We would all
go to the Democratic meetings together and have a
beer afterwards while we talked about the meeting.29
There had been significant changes in black-white rela-
tions in the 1940s in Jacksonville, as in the rest of the nation.
In 1944 the all-white Democratic primary was declared
unconstitutional as a violation of the Fourteenth and Fif-
teenth Amendments of the U. S. Constitution by the U. S.
Supreme Court. Only then could African Americans truely
have significant influence in politics. The local court suit
needed to implement this victory in Jacksonville was filed in
1945 by Dallas J. Graham, pastor of Mt. Ararat Baptist
Church from 1926 to 1976. His suit to challenge the Dem-
ocratic party's rejection of his attempt to register as a Demo-
crat on March 1, 1945, was suggested by Theodore Redding
(president of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP). Red-
ding said that the local NAACP had been "reluctant to
upset the power structure," since "lynching was prevalent"
at the time. "We selected Rev. Graham," Redding explained,
"because he was not employed by whites." Graham had also
received a letter from the Attorney General saying that he
should seek relief through the courts" for being denied the
opportunity to register as a Democrat in Jacksonville. Graham
had been a Democrat in New York before coming to Jack-
sonville. The suit was supported by other black leaders and
the NAACP raised the money to pay all the expenses.
Graham's right to be a Democrat was affirmed by U. S.
Circuit Court Judge Bayard B. Shields on March 16, 1945,





38 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

and was upheld by Circuit Court Judge Miles W Lewis on
April 3, 1945. Josephine Cleveland said that she then had
no problems as the first African American to register success-
fully as a Democrat in Duval County.30

With their previous experience in registration, voting
and political leadership in the Republican party, Jacksonville
blacks immediately got voters registered for the spring elec-
tions. Redding was proud that the new black Democrats
helped prevent the re-election of John T Alsop, Jr., whom
they considered "very prejudiced," in the April 17 Democratic
primary. Since he had been mayor for 16 of the previous 20
years, Alsop's defeat by the new city council president C.
Frank Whitehead was "a surprisingly decisive victory," accord-
ing to the Florida Times-Union. By 1946 there were 12,247
blacks registered to vote in Jacksonville-20.9 percent of the
registered voters.31

Jacksonville blacks were able to help draw the first
boundary lines for black precincts and become precinct chair-
men for the Democratic party. They were visited by white
politicians vying for the black vote at big political rallies.
They were able to get some promises from candidates who
sometimes followed through with specific improvements
such as opening up Hemming Park to blacks waiting for
buses. The first African Americans were hired as policemen
in 1950 (although they were stationed in a segregated build-
ing and could not arrest whites). Luvenia Robinson, long
active in Jacksonville politics, recalled: "We were happy and
proud of ourselves as Democrats, and I think had a good
turnout. We wanted to be considered as human beings."32

After being allowed to join the Democratic party, many
of the black leaders in Florida "thought it wiser to avoid
running Negro candidates until opposition to Negro voting
had died down." The few blacks who ran for office







during the 1940s in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami were
unsuccessful.33
In the 1947 city elections, blacks in Jacksonville had their
first chance to try to get a black elected. Wilson Armstrong,
a brick masonry laborer from the "Eastside" of Jacksonville,
ran for the Fifth Ward seat on the City Council. At the time,
candidates ran in single-member districts, and blacks were
53 percent of the registered voters in his district. However,
Armstrong did not have the full support of the black com-
munity and he lost to the white incumbent councilman,
Claude Smith.34
During the next legislative session, State Senator John
Matthews (Sr.) persuaded the Florida legislature to change
the Jacksonville charter to require at-large voting in Jackson-
ville and Duval County elections. Candidates had to live in
certain districts, called wards, to run for office. This system,
which remained until the fall of 1967, enabled whites to
maintain full control of elected office in Duval County for
another eighteen years.35 However, the system did make black
votes important to white candidates, who tried to woo the
growing numbers of African American voters.
One method used to influence the political system was
the continual effort to increase black registration and voting
through precinct and other organizations. John F. Lanahan
commented that blacks have taken the role of precinct chair-
man much more seriously than the whites, who have con-
sidered it an honorary post. In spite of long lines and fear
of reprisals by whites, black voters in Jacksonville numbered
25,839 or 22 percent of the electorate in 1950, 24,438 or 27.2
percent of the electorate in 1955, and 26,5919 or 19 percent
in 1960. With a strong statewide Florida Voters League,
blacks gave heavy support to Democratic candidates President
Harry S. Truman in 1948, Senator Claude Pepper in 1950,
and Governor Leroy Collins in 1956.36 Isadore Singleton





40 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

helped organize the statewide Florida Voters League and was
its president at the time of his death in 1964. The league,
which usually met in Jacksonville, was said in 1959 to repre-
sent 95 percent of the organized colored voters of Florida.
Ethel Powell commented that black women did much of the
registration and voting for blacks, although it was often done
quietly.37
African Americans in Jacksonville also tried to influence
politics through participation in the Democratic party at the
precinct level and in the Duval County Democratic Executive
Committee, although not without difficulties. Being in polit-
ics and on the Democratic Executive Committee was "sort
of tense," said Raiford Brown, a barber with mainly white
clients. "People were always afraid-they were so vulnerable.
Someone might tell, or they might make some mistake" and
face retaliation by whites. In 1956 the main speaker at the
January meeting of the Duval County Executive Committee
meeting was Sumter Lowry, called "Florida's leading race-
baiter" by historian H. D. Price. Only after sitting through
the long, anti-black speech, did Isadore Singleton, who was
the leader of the black delegation on the committee, request
the chairman's permission for the black members to leave.
They had not walked out during the speech, lest their exit
provide "some excuse for removing them from the commit-
tee." On the whole, however, the Democratic party was
accepting of black participation after the first years, according
to Charles Lott. In 1960 Isadore Singleton was very active
statewide in the election of President John F. Kennedy and
was invited to attend the inauguration of Kennedy in January
1961.38
A third method used to influence the political system
was the voting ticket, which was a list of candidates recom-
mended by a group or individual. Often candidates paid
fees, not for the votes but for the expenses of organizing and
distributing the tickets to influence black voters, many of







whom were illiterate or not knowledgeable about politics.
Florida Senator Arnett Girardeau later explained the ticket
system:

In the days when Rex Sweat was sheriff of Duval
County [1932-1956], he built a big political machine.
I was away at school, but I understand he controlled
the politics of the county and the city in such a
manner that blacks were just there to be used at
election time voting. There were a few blacks who
refused to accept that: Elcee Lucas, Ernest Jackson,
Isadore Singleton, Gardner (Nip) Sams, Frank
Hampton, Otis Speights, Roosevelt Daniels, Rev.
Dallas Graham, J. B. F. Williams, Rev. J. S. Johnson,
Lee Haines. These prominent people were on the
cutting edge of black equality and human rights. It
was in the late forties and fifties, when anti-black
feeling was at its peak .... It took a lot of courage.
The above-named people refused to let the white
community run their politics and were determined
to re-control politics in the black community.

That's how they got started, and they did a good job.
They stopped white politicians from coming into the
black community, getting the support they needed
and then leaving and never coming back until time
to run again. The way they did it was by starting the
ticket, which meant that someone who wanted the
support would get on somebody's ticket. The whole
group started this around the same time.39

Elcee R. Lucas, a local printer, said that he started the
ticket system in Jacksonville in 1950 when the Congress of
Industrial Organizations gave him money to increase the
black vote in northeast Florida for the re-election of U. S.
Senator Claude Pepper.40





42 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

In some of the voting leagues, such as the Duval County
Democratic Alliance, precinct workers met together to
endorse candidates for each office. Then ward, precinct and
block workers distributed their endorsement cards, talked to
people individually, and offered transportation to the polls.
White politicians sometimes were afraid to let it be known
that they made promises to blacks or were on black tickets,
for fear of losing white support. After the elections, the black
committeemen and other campaigners could serve as go-
betweens for their neighborhoods and the city officials they
had helped to elect. They were often able to get jobs for
blacks and the promised improvements for streets, recrea-
tional facilities and fire stations-sometimes from the city
councilman's contingency fund. Since blacks in Florida
generally registered and voted in greater numbers when there
were contests of special importance to them, the voting
leagues helped to increase African American interest and
participation.41
Senator Girardeau said that Isadore Singleton was one of
these "power-brokers" among the blacks for a long time. He
said that Singleton "was entirely respected in both the black
community and in the white community" for not over-charg-
ing the candidates and for printing a name "only if he
thought the candidate the best for blacks." As Singleton
became widely recognized as a respected political leader in
the black community, white politicians were advised to seek
his support during this period when voting for candidates
was city-wide. Lewis B. Brantley, who represented Duval
County in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate
between 1966 and 1978, remembered that Isadore Singleton
was a political power in Jacksonville-one of the "kingpins"
in politics. "It was my firm belief that if Isadore was against
you, you couldn't win," he said.42
Charles E. Lott said that Singleton was well-suited for
this role, since he was known as having "the best barbeque







in town and made friends from all over." He and his wife,
Mary, would host political gatherings in their spacious home
on 33rd Street, and would sponsor other large gatherings
where candidates could meet black voters. "Mary was always
in the background-very gracious. She was such a dear per-
son," said one white politician's wife.43
A fourth way that African Americans in Jacksonville
tried to influence the political system was through the run-
ning of black candidates for political office, even though the
system of voting city-wide for each candidate from 1949 to
1967 made black victories unlikely. The system of having
second primaries for the two top vote getters in each race
also hindered blacks since whites who had been divided
among various white candidates tended to unite their votes
against any black candidate in a second primary. In 1951 two
blacks ran for the Jacksonville City Council but were defeated
in the second primary: printer Elcee Lucas in Ward Three
and Porcher L. Taylor, Sr., publisher of The Florida Tattler,
in Ward Five. The following year, Porcher Taylor was also
unsuccessful in his bid to be justice of the peace.44
Although a relative newcomer to Jacksonville politics,
Isadore Singleton ran in April 1955 for the Ward Two city
council seat and came in third with 6,094 votes against the
11,378 votes for Lemuel Sharp, a past council president, and
8,422 for Bill Thompson. Attorney Ernest D. Jackson, Sr.,
from Ward Three and Porcher Taylor from Ward Five also
ran but lost in the second primary.45
In 1956 Ernest Jackson, a "respected" African American
attorney, actually won the first primary Democratic election
for justice of the peace in District Two of Duval County. He
received 52.5 percent of the votes-7,716 votes compared to
6,013 votes for the incumbent Sarah Bryan. To nullify this
vote, a local judge agreed with whites that the existing justice
of the peace district lines were unconstitutional. Although





44 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

they had been used satisfactorily for four years, the districts
were changed. The Democratic Executive Committee then
chose Bryan, but not Jackson, as one of the Democratic
candidates for the new districts. Bryan was sure to win in
the general election, since most voters were registered Demo-
crats. Even so, some blacks noted that Jackson really got
more votes than Bryan as a write-in candidate in the general
election. However, the courts had ruled that a write-in can-
didate's full name had to be written out and spelled exactly
right, in a certain place on the ballot. In that year, 45.6
percent of the adult blacks in Duval County were registered
to vote, compared with 37.5 percent of adult whites. One to
two hundred ballots for Jackson were thrown out because
they did not conform to these requirements. Jackson's district
was then gerrymandered so that instead of having 1,000
more black than white voters, it had 2,000 more white
voters.46
Yet, this event had a stimulating effect on some whites.
Walter Smith, who later became chairman of the Duval
County Democratic Executive Committee three times,
remembered being upset at the "gerrymandering" of the
justice of the peace districts in order to keep out Jackson in
1956. "It was just such an injustice," Smith said later. "I
thought: 'How far can we go and still say we have a dem-
ocratic society?' "47
Isadore Singleton did not run in the April 1959 city
council election, but two blacks, Ernest Jackson from Ward
Five and Samuel Bruce, Sr. from Ward Three, were again
defeated in the second primary. Before the first primary,
Haydon Burns and Emory Price, candidates for mayor of
Jacksonville, were accusing each other of sympathy toward
African Americans.48
When Ernest Jackson ran again for justice of the peace
in May 1960, he was hindered by endless telephone calls and







the location of polling places at sites hard for black voters
to reach. Yet in the first primary he still got more votes (5488
or 44 percent of the total vote) than Sarah Bryan (who got
4764 votes) or the two white male opponents. He lost to her
in the second primary by 746 votes. The same month, Eric
Oscar Simpson, publisher of the Florida Star of Jacksonville
and the Miami Star, ran for the county Civil Service Board
from District Two. He came in third with 15,000 votes (27.9
percent of the votes).49 In November 1961, Attorney Leander
J. Shaw, Jr., received 3067 votes in the first black bid for a
seat on the board of school trustees in Duval County, but
he lost in the second primary.50
In April 1963, Isadore Singleton again ran for the Jackson-
ville City Council from Ward Two. He received 15,219 votes
(43.4 percent of the vote) against incumbent Lemuel Sharp
who was reelected with 19,864 votes. Singleton's six-year-old
son, Isadore, later remembered his father "running around
with a loud speaker on his car to campaign" and having a
"parade." Singleton received help in the campaign from his
brother Ernest, who was in Jacksonville at the time. As Ernest
Singleton remembered, "You can be sure that going into all-
white areas to campaign and speak at all-white gatherings
was a spine-tingling sensation for both of us." With the Civil
Rights Movement then active in Jacksonville, Isadore Single-
ton ran "at a very inopportune time-a little ahead," said
Don Trednick. "In a district of many more white than black
voters, he didn't have too much of a chance. He would have
won hands down in an all-black district."51
After the election, Isadore Singleton "then worked on
strengthening his political base since he planned to run again
for local office or the state legislature," reported his brother.
"Mary, of course, knew all of his contacts and had discussed
his plans for the future." Ernest Singleton noted that Medgar
Evers, from their home state of Mississippi, visited his
brother in June 1963 in Jacksonville and asked Isadore to




46 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

come to Mississippi to aid "the cause." Medgar Evers was
killed the following week in Mississippi (June 12, 1963).52
Isadore Singleton also worked with Frank Hampton and
other blacks to get blacks hired in government positions and
to ask for help at City Hall when someone had difficulty. He
supported Hampton's legal attacks on segregation through
court suits, as well. On July 4, 1958, Frank Hampton and
three other blacks refused to accept any longer their being
kept out of the local tax-supported Brentwood and Hyde
Park golf courses (except for a a single day for black use at
each course). They filed suit against the city of Jacksonville,
with the help of attorney Ernest Jackson, who argued that
segregation of the golf courses was a violation of the Four-
teenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The African
Americans won the suit in April 1959 when U. S. District
Judge Bryan Simpson ruled that the city golf courses must
be desegregated.53
However, the city then closed the courses within a week
and made plans to sell them to private corporations to avoid
integration. Isadore Singleton, a golfer, was one of several
black leaders who urged the Jacksonville City Commission
not to close them. As president of the Jacksonville Negro
Chamber of Commerce, he "asked the commission not to
put politics before principle and urged them to apply the
golden rule."54 Brentwood and Hyde Park golf courses were
sold to private owners in January and February, 1960. Then
Frank Hampton filed several additional suits to protest the
exclusion of blacks from the now privately owned golf courses
on the basis that, since the sale of the golf courses included
a "reverter clause" for the property to be returned to the city
if they ceased to be used as golf courses, the owners became
agents of the city. The Supreme Court agreed with Hampton
in 1962. When the golf owners still refused to admit blacks,
they were held in contempt of court until their sizeable hike
in membership fees was approved by Judge Simpson in 1963







as long as it did "not involve racial discrimination." Then
Hampton and Jimmy Burr paid the $75. membership fee
and became the first black members at the Brentwood
club.55
In October 1959, as it became clear that the city was
going to sell the two golf courses to avoid discrimination,
Hampton filed another suit at his own expense. This was
called an "omnibus suit" against all public facilities owned
and operated or leased by the city of Jacksonville. "We felt
that if we brought one suit against each facility, the city of
Jacksonville would sell each facility as it became desegre-
gated," and "endless suits would have to be filed," said attor-
ney Jackson in 1976. U. S. District Judge Simpson ruled in
December 1960 that the facilities were to be integrated, and
the city of Jacksonville gave up this futile legal fight.56 How-
ever, the city then closed its public swimming pools to avoid
integration, and the courts would not force the city to reopen
the pools.57
The politically active Isadore Singleton was remembered
by his son as a hard worker who did all he could to keep
the five barbeque restaurants going. "I'd go around to the
restaurants and help him make the sauce or do whatever was
needed. They were closed only on Sundays, when we went
fishing occasionally, and things like that," he said. "He was
always doing something for kids. One time he came to school
and released pigeons. Another time he went to the park
nearby and gave away a box full of baseball gloves he had
bought for the kids."58
Speaking later about this period in her life, Mary Single-
ton said:
Somebody had to play the fiddle while Rome
burned, and I ran the businesses. I could run them
my way, you know. I did most of the book work. I
could stay home and do this, and I did. My husband





48 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

was the activist at that time. I supported [the civil
rights movement in Jacksonville] but I was never out
there. I was a member of the NAACP, but not active.
I worked with the Catholic women's groups and stuff
like that.59

She would often accompany her husband as he went to
see about his money at his stores, until midnight or one
A.M. She also did a considerable amount of entertaining
related to her husband's political activities. She did not always
get paid for barbequed ribs and chicken ordered by politi-
cians. She did have a housekeeper to help her.60
Mrs. Singleton went regularly with her children to St.
Pius the Fifth Catholic Church. She was a member of the
Altar and Rosary Society, the Welcome and Outreach Com-
mittee, and the Catholic Women's Professional Club. "She
was always a good worker and supported all the activities,"
although she did not take leadership, said Elizabeth
Jasmin.61
Evelyn Walker remembered Mary Singleton as also being
a fellow member of a social club, the "Cotillians." According
to her cousin, Francis Littlejohn, "Mary was not a leader
then, and not much of a socialite anyway .... She hated to
dress up, and said that nothing was accomplished at social
events. She did read a lot and stayed abreast of the news." 62
Carol Singleton was in Girl Scouts, as her mother had
been, and later helped with swimming classes as a life guard
at a day camp.63 She was also the first African American
student at Bishop Kenney Catholic High School in 1962 and
she graduated cum laude in 1966. She was a home room
representative and a member of various school organizations.
Mary and Isadore Singleton were active in the school as
parents and got to know other people involved with the
school.64







However, the Singletons did experience prejudice. Mary
Singleton later told Walter Smith about a time when she
purchased tickets for a game at a ball park, but she and her
out-of-town guests were refused admittance because of race.
Yet Johnny D. Sanders, city councilman from June 1967 to
1979, reported that during the early 1960s Mary and Isadore
Singleton were the first blacks to buy and sit in a box for
viewing a game on the white side of the stadium, since only
the white side had boxes.65
The death of Isadore Singleton, Sr., on February 4, 1964,
was a shock to many people. Overweight and plagued by
serious heart trouble, Singleton died of influenza in the
hospital within seven hours of suffering a mild heart attack.66
Thus Mary Singleton was left alone at age 42 to raise two
children-Carol, age fifteen, and Isadore, age seven-and to
run five barbeque businesses. Her schoolteacher cousin, Fran-
cis Littlejohn, helped her when he could. Yet she had dif-
ficulties getting regular, reliable help and sold the businesses
gradually-keeping the one on Edgewood Avenue until 1974.67
Encouraged by friends, Mary Singleton began to be
involved in political affairs. Frank Hampton said that she
often looked sad when she bought gas from his station. He
and others made sure she got included in social and political
events. She became very active in Democratic politics and
soon represented her precinct, as her husband had done, on
the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee. Shirley
King remembered that Mary Singleton became very inter-
ested in leadership in the party-"probably wanting to con-
tinue her husband's work, while being a good mother." She
was also active in the Democratic Club. "People wanted her
to come out," said Thelma Jackson, "and be a part of the
community-with her name recognition."68
In January 1965, Mary Singleton was known well enough
in political circles to be appointed by Governor Farris Bryant





50 MARY LITTLEJOHN SINGLETON

to the Local Government Study Commission of Duval
County. She served on Task Force Five on "budgeting, the
budget commission, fund custody and finances." Nancie
Crabb, who was also on the Local Government Study Com-
mission and later on the Jacksonville City Council from 1975
to 1982, thought that the Duval County legislative delegation
"generally had the highest goals in mind" in recommending
these appointments for the commission. "For the first time
ever, they tried to get a good cross-section of people," includ-
ing women, blacks, affluent leaders and poor people of
Jacksonville.69
Mary was very intelligent, and so was her husband.
They were well-liked as well and respected and
feared for their influence. They wanted a woman as
well as a black, so they asked Mary. She knew politics
inside out-from the bottom up. I think [being on
the commission] educated her on the technical
aspects of government, but she already knew the
politics of government.70
In June 1966, Mary Singleton was also appointed to the
Housing Board of Adjustments and Appeals by Mayor Louis
Ritter. She served as vice-chairman, with Walter D. Smith
as chairman. The housing board functioned under the city's
new minimum standard housing law, which became effective
in August 1966. The new law allowed property owners to
appeal orders issued by the city supervisor of buildings about
compliance with the new law. "Mary got along beautifully
with the people who came with complaints," Smith com-
mented. "She could reach them .... We tried to make both
sides happy-with a compromise. She was good at that kind
of mediation." 71
Meanwhile, Mary Singleton was trying to be a good
mother. She attended programs at the James Weldon Johnson
branch of the Y.M.C.A. where Carol was a member of the







Co-Ed Club and programs at Bishop Kenney High School
where Carol was one of the first black graduates in 1966.72
Isadore Singleton (Jr.) recalled that one of his mother's
favorite types of recreation was going fishing with him. She
kept fishing rods in the car so that she would be ready for
it. He also said that once he finally got her to go to a wrestling
match with him she loved it. They went every Thursday-
getting to know people in the wrestling business (such as
Don Curtis), and working with them. He also mentioned
that "she was crazy about cooking." Having to raise her
children as a single parent, she tried hard to be a good
parent, her son said. "She was a very strict parent. She really
meant her discipline." 73
During this period, Mary Singleton was developing close
friendships with city councilman Johnny Sanders and his
wife, Bobbie Sanders. They had children about the same
ages and the two families would visit back and forth. Some-
times Mary would take the Sanders children fishing along
with her own children. Once the Sanders family went to
Christmas dinner at Mary's house to enjoy a beautifully-set
table, her good cooking and good humor. "She was extremely
intelligent and lovable to everybody," said Mrs. Sanders.74
Mary Singleton also knew loneliness. She explained later
that one reason for devoting a lot of her time to public
service work was to compensate for being lonely. "I had
about three years to find out what it's like just being by
yourself. I can't live like that. I enjoy being with people."75
With her training and experience, she was ready for further
developments in her career.















































Clockwise from top: Nell Brooks, cousin Nell Carr, Grace Brooks,
Sallye Brooks, Ralph Brooks, 1917.







CHAPTER III


Sallye Brooks Mathis

Sallye Brooks (Mathis) also grew up as an integral part
of the African American community in Jacksonville and
contributed to it as an adult. Henry Pickens Brooks and
Sallie Adams Brooks, who were the parents of Sallye Marilyn
Brooks, came to Jacksonville in the first years of the century
from Greenwood, South Carolina. They had both attended
Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. Sallie Adams
graduated from the college and taught school in Columbia.
Her mother, Ann Adams, had been born into slavery and
was still a child at the time of emancipation.1
In Jacksonville, the Brooks family lived first on Davis
Street and then on Sixth Street, where they stayed the rest
of their lives. Henry Brooks was a furniture store salesman.
Sallie A. Brooks ran a private school where she taught
kindergarten through third grade. She was known for her
success in teaching children who had had difficulty learning
elsewhere.2
Sallye Marilyn Brooks was born on May 18, 1912, in the
Davis Street home. She was the fifth of eight children, four
of whom died as babies. She grew up with an older sister,
Nellie, an older brother, Ralph, and a younger sister, Grace.
The Brooks family was not rich but was law-abiding and
respected. Living nearby were an uncle, Willis Brooks, his
two daughters, Ella and Ida, and a cousin of Sallye's father-
Josephine Boyd-with her son, Alexander Rice.3
After attending her mother's school through the third
grade, young Sallye attended the Davis Street School. Sallye's
sixth grade teacher was Mary White Blocker, who took lead-





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


ership in getting black women to vote and later sued the
school system to get equal pay for black teachers. Sallye's
eighth grade teacher was Wilhemina Rutledge, also a promi-
nent teacher and community organizer. Another neighbor of
Sallye's was Eartha Mary Magdalene White, who later re-
ceived help from Sallye Brooks Mathis with many of her
projects.4

The Brooks family was very active at Central Baptist
Church, then at State and Laura Streets. "Every time the
doors opened, Sallye was there," remembered her sister
Grace. Each week their father walked with the children to
Sunday School; their mother started dinner and then came
to the church service and sang in the choir. On Sunday
afternoons, Sallye's mother led programs at the church. For
years she was president of the church's Missionary Society
and teacher of the women's Bible class. Dr. Charles D. Brooks
(not a relative) commented that Sallie Adams Brooks was
"quite a woman around town-a great religious worker, who
was a much sought-after speaker." In 1920, when Sallye was
eight years old, her mother was one of the first black women
who stood in line for hours to register to vote. Henry Brooks
died when Sallye was 15 years old.5

Sallye Brooks continued her education at Stanton High
School at Ashley and Broad Streets, the only public high
school for blacks in Duval County. Another Stanton graduate,
teacher Coatsie Jones, remembered that black history and
culture were taught at the school-with visits by poets Lang-
ston Hughes and Countee Cullen. As at Boylan Haven
school, the "Negro National Anthem" by James Weldon
Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson was sung daily. One
of her teachers there was Amy Stewart Currie, who remem-
bered Sallye Brooks as a normal, quiet student who did her
work. Lillian G. Smalls, who was with Sallye's brother Ralph
in the class ahead of Sallye, recalled that Sallye was active







enough at Stanton to be known around the school by the
older students.6
Around age sixteen, Sallye Brooks began many years of
teaching Sunday School at Central Baptist Church. She was
also organist for the Sunday School and sang in the choir for
a number of years. The various ministers of the black
churches in Jacksonville were all active in community activ-
ities. They urged the church members to participate also,
recalled her sister.7
As a teen-ager, "Sallye wasn't ever wild," said her sister
Grace.
She was a smart worker at home and helped Mamma
a lot. She was always very helpful, although she didn't
like cooking and sewing. She had a high temper. She
didn't take any foolishness off you. She wouldn't
bother you but don't you bother her. Once she hit
her brother in the head with a pan and knocked
some of the porcelain off it. But she was a kind
person.8
After graduating from Stanton High School in 1930,
Sallye Brooks went to Benedict College, the small Baptist
college in Columbia, South Carolina, which her parents had
attended. Like her mother, she was enrolled in a teacher-
training program. "I always wanted to be a school teacher
from the time I was in fifth grade," Sallye Mathis said later.
"I always saw myself as helping other people." According to
teacher Coatsie Jones,

teaching was the logical career choice for a young
black woman who looked up to her teachers with a
respect so strong that she chose to model herself
after them. They all had singleness of purpose to see
that we were enriched and strengthened in our desire
to be successful.9





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


Sallye Brooks lived at first with her mother's sister in the
city of Columbia. The second semester she was able to live
in the campus dormitory, where she roomed with Annette
McDonald (later Espy) from Fort Pierce, Florida. Dr. Espy
remembered that "Sallye was very friendly, lovable, and kind-
hearted, and was loved by all the students and teachers ....
She was very conscientious about her school work, and stud-
ied very hard to make the best grades possible."10
The two friends also took part in the few social activities
which the college provided. They attended silent movies on
Saturday evenings and all the football games held on the
campus field. Sallye was active in the Y.WC.A. programs as
well."
Sallye Brooks Mathis later remembered a trip to college
in South Carolina when she did not have the nickel needed
for the restroom and had to crawl up under the door to get
in. She decided then if ever she could do something about
the problem of locked restroom doors she would. Later, as
a member of the Jacksonville City Council, she got a bill
passed to make all public places with restrooms provide a
free toilet.12
After working as a clerk in the office of the Works Project
Administration in Jacksonville for several years, Sallye Brooks
completed her associate of arts degree in 1934 at Bethune
Cookman College at Daytona Beach, Florida, and received
a teaching certificate for grades 1 to 9.13 As an adult, she
continued to gain experience, exposure and respect for her
participation in community life.
Her 28-year career in the public schools began in 1934.
Her first assignment was in a little church building on Kings
Road called Lincoln Park School, with about four teachers.
When the wind blew the school down, it was relocated in
a building on the Edward Waters College campus and called
the College Park School. While there from 1943 to 1948, she







taught all the elementary grades at various times. By taking
courses in the summer, she received her B.S. degree in Edu-
cation from Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1941.14
Sallye Mathis taught history and civics from 1948 to
1953 at the Davis Street School she had attended as a child.
In 1952 the school was named Isaiah Blocker Junior High
School after her former school principal there. From 1953 to
1955 she taught at Stanton High School from which she had
graduated. In 1954 and 1955 she received placques from the
Daughters of the American Revolution for outstanding per-
formance as a teacher of American History.15 Horace T
Small, Sr., who was in Mrs. Mathis' history class and home-
room at the Davis Street School, remembered her "kind-
hearted manner .... When she saw students cutting class,
she went after them [and talked with them]; she wouldn't
give up on people."16
She paid for the first music lessons for another student
of hers, Roscoe Speed, who later became music and choral
director at American Senior High School in Miami. That
action probably influenced his life more than any other single
thing, said Speed.17
Active in the Duval County Teachers' Association during
her years as an educator, Sallye Mathis was one of the
teachers who worked secretly on a court suit in 1941 by
Mary White Blocker, a prominent teacher, to get equal pay
for African American educators. Black teachers and princi-
pals were paid roughly half the salaries of whites with similar
qualifications. There was a four-step schedule of descending
payments for white males, black males, white females and
black females. Blacks with master's degrees were paid less
than whites with bachelor's degrees. Also, public schools
continued to underfund the buildings and equipment of
black schools. School expenditures per child in Florida for
1937-38 were reported by Edward D. Davis to be $55.44 per





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


white child compared to $21.64 per black child. However,
teacher Amy Currie said that teachers lived in the neighbor-
hoods and personally knew the students and their families.
They would tutor children who needed help on their own
time, free of charge. "There were few real behavior problems
in the classrooms that the teachers could not handle," she
commented. "Just occasionally a pupil might be sent to the
principal's office and might be given after-school duties, such
as picking up papers, as punishment."19
In 1937, the Florida State Teachers' Association encour-
aged John Gilbert, a principal in Brevard County, Florida, to
enter a suit in state court to equalize the teachers' pay there.
Despite the help of black attorney S. D. McGill of Jackson-
ville, Gilbert lost his suit and his job as a result. Many other
African American educators were harassed and lost their
jobs in similar struggles. Before the Gilbert case could be
appealed, a suit by principal Vernon McDaniel filed early in
1941 in Escambia County was decided in the black teachers'
favor in the U. S. District Court on July 3, 1941. It was
upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court. After this victory, black
teachers in eight Florida counties filed separate equalization
suits in U. S. District courts. Mary White Blocker, age 69,
volunteered as the plaintiff in the suit in Duval County in
November 1941, with the help of S. D. McGill and the
NAACP. She was fired, as were the plaintiffs in the other
Florida suits. One of the plaintiffs was George H. Starkes III,
a young teacher in Ocala who filed the suit against the
Marian County Board of Public Instruction in January 1942,
and later moved to Jacksonville. On March 31, U. S. District
Judge Louie W Strum of Jacksonville ordered the consoli-
dation of these and the similar cases from Tampa, Miami
and Palm Beach in the U. S. Court of Appeal, with the
Jacksonville case representing the others, and thus the results
were raised to statewide relevance. Mary Blocker's suit was
successful in the Court of Appeals on June 20, 1942, when







an equal salary schedule for all Duval County teachers was
ordered on June 20, 1942.20 The inequities between the
salaries of black and white educators were substantially
lessened, although not eliminated right away due to a rating
system based not only on training and experience, but also
on the size of the school and other factors. However, by 1946
the Council of Social Agencies noted "a substantial improve-
ment over 1942" in the black-white pay ratio for teachers and
principals.21
The (black) Duval County Teachers' Association had
been working on the teacher pay problem in cognito, in order
to avoid being fired. They had to work through a committee
of non-teaching citizens, chaired by Dr. C. F. Duncan, for
the work that was visible to the public. The African Amer-
ican teachers appreciated Mary Blocker's courage so much
that the Duval County Teachers' Association decided to give
her a monthly payment for the rest of her life.22
Dr. Charles Brooks commented that he thought it was
"a result of this suit that Sallye Brooks Mathis and other
teachers who had secretly worked on the suit became aware
of what could be done by being politically active." "She
played a key role in these activities," he added. "She was
always on some committee to get something done. You
wouldn't have to ask her-she'd come right up and volunteer.
She liked to do research on things."23
Sallye Mathis was also a member of the association's
Dramatics Committee, which put on plays performed by the
teachers. As chairman of the Welfare Committee, she helped
administer the Ducote Federal Credit Union. W D. Sweet
had started the credit union for the Duval County Teachers'
Association so that teachers could put money in and then
borrow money for emergencies without paying the exhorbi-
tant interest rates that white banks were charging them. "We
needed people like Sallye, to be fair with all," said Sweet.24





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


She went to Columbia University in New York City one
summer to work on her master's degree, but transferred to
the summer program at Florida A. & M. University so that
she could come home on weekends. In 1955 she received her
master's degree in education.25
From 1955 to 1957 Sallye Mathis was a counsellor at the
Isaiah Blocker Junior High School. Then she was dean of
girls at Matthew W. Gilbert Junior-Senior High School from
1957 to 1962. Thelma Dougan Jackson, one of the 800 female
students at the school, remembered her as
a stern dean, but fair-very concerned about girls
becoming young ladies-spiritually, educationally,
and socially. No matter what one's socio-economic
situation, she was concerned with young ladies
becoming the best that they could be. She always
had time to talk to you and assist you and your
parents if need be.26
Dr. Annette McDonald Espy commented that, with "her
strong belief in the dignity of finer womanhood," Sallye
Mathis "helped shape the lives of many girls."27
She worked quietly and encouraged the students. When
parents could not afford new clothes, she would see that her
husband gave them shoes and other things, and students
noticed that. "She was the type of person students would
want to emulate," said Clarice Bradwell. She secretly paid
the tuition for some young women to attend nursing school,
and encouraged young people to save part of their wages.28
In 1938, Sallye Brooks married (Oscar) Earl Mathis,
owner of a family shoe business on Florida Avenue. He had
been born in Americus, Georgia, and came to Jacksonville
as a boy with his parents and baby brother, Robert. Twice
a widower, Mathis had a child by each wife. His children
lived with his mother and sometimes with his aunts in "one
big happy family," according to Mrs. Mayme (Robert) Mathis.







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SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


"When Earl opened his shoe store'on the Eastside [in 1918],
he was about the only black in the shoe business," she said;
"he helped out a lot of others who wanted to go into the
shoe business." He also sold men's clothes, hats and other
merchandise. "Sallye used to help him some in the busi-
ness," said Grace Solomon. He bought other properties
around Jacksonville.29
Earl Mathis was active in the community. He and his
brother Robert were deacons for many years at Bethel Baptist
Institutional Church, where the extended Mathis family was
active. He did volunteer work for the James Weldon Johnson
branch of the Y.M.C.A. and the Boy Scouts. He was also
active in the Knights of Pythians and the Masons. He
received a placque of honor from the High School and Prin-
cipals' Council for 25 years of "outstanding support to the
schools of Duval County." Sallye Mathis said later that her
husband "was an inspiration to her. 'He was always support-
ive, especially while I was teaching.'"30
During her years as an educator, Sallye Mathis found
time for other community activities. Continuing her work at
Central Baptist Church, she taught classes and became
superintendent of the Sunday School there. She chaired the
"Lighted Cross" group at the church, which aided missionary
and social service work.31
Patricia Small, who grew up knowing Sallye Mathis as
family friend, neighbor and Sunday School teacher at Central
Baptist Church, commented that Sallye Mathis, even though
very busy,
would teach special courses at church-on the Bible,
on prayer, and, for the youth, a weekday course on
current events and how we could be helpful. She
encouraged involvement-as voters, and as citizens
involved in the life of the community whether as
volunteers or in whatever ways would be helpful.







She would help youth find jobs, deal with special
problems, and establish careers. Like an employment
agency, she would help them find the right spot. She
would always find time for the young people and the
church and sit down with individuals on a personal
basis.32
In 1950, Sallye Mathis was also influenced by joining the
Jacksonville Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
The national group had been founded as a public service
organization of professional black women at Howard Univer-
sity in 1913. One of the founders, Winona Alexander, who
moved to Jacksonville in 1919, said, "We wanted to pass on
the high ideals and principles we had been taught .... It was
as if we were to lift the whole of our race. We knew we
couldn't do it alone."33 First grade teacher Lillian Smalls,
who joined the sorority at the same time, remembered that
Sallye Mathis took part whole-heartedly in the various activ-
ities of the sorority. There were yearly events to raise
hundreds of dollars for scholarships for deserving students
and numerous other projects to help the community.34
During these years, Sallye Mathis found time to be
involved in additional community service activities. She
served on the leadership board of the A. L. Lewis branch
of the Jacksonville Y.W.C.A. from the early 1940s until she
was elected to the newly integrated Board of Directors in
1962. She helped with many ofEartha M. M. White's charity
projects. In 1958 she was also president of the Book Lovers
Guild which met at the black library. She assisted Mrs. J. L.
Terry in organizing a children's section of the Durkee Drive
Community Guild. In this group they provided fun activities
for the children in their neighborhood in addition to what
their parents did.35
A number of people remembered Sallye Mathis' concern
for other people. Rozie Smith recalled seeing her give some





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


new shoes from the Mathis store to a needy family, saying,
"Earl, these people need these shoes. You won't miss them."
She visited and encouraged friends who were sick. She would
get some people together and help clean for sick and elderly
people.36 She wrote later to her close friend Willye Dennis
about a "message" that was given to her in 1952:
Learn to understand people's reactions. Always treat
them with love and respect and patience. Always
keep in mind the realization that no one who is normal
acts contentious, antagonistic or hostile. People like that
are sick; something is eating them; there is some kind
of pressure; there is inner pain. Maybe by love,
understanding and sympathy you may be able to
find the cause and change them. Don't give up easily,
and above all, don't get mad. Use God's love to help
them.37
Sallye Mathis' husband Earl died of cancer in November
1961 after being sick about a year. That was an exhausting
time for her, since she had to combine taking her husband
for treatments after school with her duties as dean of girls.
After her husband's death, Mrs. Mathis decided to retire
from the school system in June 1962. She had put in more
than the 20 years required for retirement. At age 50 Sallye
Mathis was free for other things she wanted to do.38
Besides the death of her husband, the segregation issue
contributed to her decision to retire from teaching. She com-
mented later on how sad it was that young children had to
leave home in the predawn hours to take long bus rides to
the black schools. "I just lost my enthusiasm for teaching,"
she explained. "It was not a matter of wanting to go to school
with the whites. It was just that 'separate' was never 'equal.'39
After a period of mourning, Sallye Mathis devoted herself
to leadership in community organizations and civil rights
efforts. Willye Dennis noted that she "used her resources-







her time, her money, her house for meetings, her influence
on others-to further the cause of justice and freedom." She
also helped her husband's son, David Mathis, run the shoe
store for several years.40
The Y.WC.A. was one of the city's first organizations to
integrate its staff and membership. Staff member Frances
Alexander, who worked hard to make that change in 1962
and 1963, said the new policy came when teacher Jean Fliess
agreed to become the new Y.WC.A. executive director only
if the board and staff would integrate. White and black
members had been at odds in the early 1960s when black
women were barred from the downtown building. The first
integrated activity at the downtown Y.W.C.A. was the 1962
World Fellowship Assembly, "when black and white women
celebrated both their oneness and differences."41 When some-
one at a Y.WC.A. meeting objected to integration, Sallye
Mathis said, "Why do you call yourself a Christian?"42 Yet
the black women were hesitant about integrating the board,"
said Frances Alexander.
They had been responsible for their own programs
at the [black] branch, and when we began to talk
about combining the groups, they feared they would
be a minority where they had been a majority. The
majority of the all-white board of directors voted for
it and the few who disagreed had resigned.43
A member of the governing body of the Y.WC.A.'s black
branch much of the time since the 1940s, Sallye Mathis had
"a very positive impact," during integration time, said Mrs.
Alexander. "She helped lead us in understanding-to stand
up and be counted, even as a minority."44
Sue Nell Spiro, who was on the Y.WC.A. Board of Direc-
tors for seven years, commented that
Sallye Mathis did not talk a lot at the board meetings,
but would reflect and give her opinion, which was





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


always a very air one, and people listened to her-
both black and white. She was very good at that. She
helped people communicate and get along. She didn't
compromise but was as objective as possible-never
hostile. She reminded people to live up to the 'Chris-
tian' in the 'Young Women's Christian Association.'
She was also good at raising money, which was
needed since many were opposed to integration.45

Another board member, Delores Shaw, said that

Sallye could break any barriers down, so you hated
nothing. She could point out flaws and things that
needed improvement, but said that blacks should
not blame themselves or be embarrassed by the sit-
uation. Perhaps it was the school teacher in her. She
could offer possible solutions to problems or cause
you to think, 'What are we going to do about it?' She
did not yell, try to let you know how brilliant she
was, or build herself up. She would ask questions if
needed, or say, 'I'll find out.' She was deeply religious
yet did not try to convert the world.46

Sallye Mathis was also influential in integrating the
League 6f Women Voters of Jacksonville in 1962. Teacher
Vera Davis said that their joining was an outgrowth of some
inter-racial meetings held by members of the American
Friends' Society. They met in the home of Pat Bond, who
was on the League's membership committee. "Blacks were
not being sought in the League of Women Voters," said Vera
Davis. However the dues that she, Sallye Mathis and Wil-
hemina Rutledge sept in were accepted. The African Amer-
ican members attended unit meetings in Arlington for several
months before many League members knew about it. Some
white women resigned from the board of directors, but others
welcomed the blacks. In 1963 Sallye Mathis and Wilhemina







Rutledge began going to state and later national meetings of
the League of Women Voters.47
Mrs. Mathis was a member of the local League's Board
of Directors by its April 7, 1964 meeting. At that meeting,
the League president, Carolyn Vernier, reported that she had
testified before the HOPE subcommittee of the Citizens'
Biracial Committee about the League's experience in inte-
grating. They had found difficulty in arranging luncheon
meetings and in securing homes for integrated meetings. She
further testified that "we found our negro members make a
valuable contribution to our discussions and that we had
found it very easy to associate with them."48 With the Board's
willingness, Carolyn Vernier then appeared on a panel tel-
evision show on the subject. A local judge told her later that
her testimony changed his mind about the need to integrate
public facilities. Mrs. Vernier said later that the black
members helped the white members learn about the prob-
lems of the black schools.49
By October 1964, Sallye Mathis had persuaded other
African American women, such as Grace Solomon, Florida
Rutledge Cave, Anne McIntosh, Hettie Mills, Delores Shaw
and Arnolta Williams, to join the League of Women Voters.
"Sallye explained to me the benefits of joining and how we
could contribute," said Hettie Mills.50 By May 1964, Sallye
Mathis was discussion leader for the League of Women
Voters' Northside unit and also head of the League's Inter-
national Relations Committee. Mrs. Gene Miller remem-
bered many pleasant occasions at the Mathis home where
they planned for the committee.51
Sallye Mathis said later that her interest in city govern-
ment started through the League of Women Voters' observer
program. Beginning in June 1964, the members attended
government meetings and went on "Look-See" trips to see
government in action. A former civics teacher, Sallye Mathis





68 SALLYE BROOkSMATHIS

regularly observed the city council meetings and began to
learn what was going on. Louis H. Ritter, Sr., who was mayor
of Jacksonville from 1965 to 1967, said that Mrs. Mathis, as
an observer for the League of Women Voters, had probably
the best attendance record at council meetings while he was
mayor. Sallye Mathis was angry that the officials would go
into "executive sessions" to talk privately, since there was no
"Sunshine Law" then, remembered Gene Miller; things were
so bad on the council that she may have said, "What can
I lose?" when she later decided to run for the council.52

In 1964 and 1965 the studies of the League of Women
Voters of Jacksonville also included the Florida legislation,
the Duval County schools, and the proposed consolidation
of Jacksonville and Duval County. Sallye Mathis, as a League
member, contributed to the discussions. She thus had numer-
ous white friends who were informed about and in favor of
consolidation.53

From 1962 to 1971, Sallye Mathis was also on the Board
of Directors of the local Y.M.C.A. Lawrence V Jones, director
of the James Weldon Johnson branch (for blacks) since 1964,
said that Mrs. Mathis "was a very conscientious board
member [who] ... was very instrumental in bringing in
funds."4

Sallye Mathis was also "a great help in the planning" of
some of the first anti-poverty programs in Jacksonville in
1965, noted former mayor Louis Ritter. She aided especially
in the setting up of the first neighborhood centers in the East
Jacksonville area. She was a leading organizer of the Jackson-
ville Opportunities Industrialization Center (J.O.I.C.). In
1966 she, Wendell Holmes, Jr., and others went to Philadel-
phia to get information on the program for job training and
placement. "She was very sincere about helping people to
help themselves," commented Alfred Bennefield, director of







the center. She served on its board of directors from then
until her death.55

In the mid-1960s, Sallye Mathis had more time than
earlier to devote to the projects of Delta Sigma Theta, "a
public service sorority." She served as vice-president and
Dean of Pledgees for several terms and attended several
national Delta conventions. She helped with the library pro-
ject for teen-agers, the voter registration project, and pro-
grams on such topics as the dangers of drugs and how to
interview for jobs. The group brought students to McClenny
State Hospital to entertain the patients.56

Sallye Mathis was also president of the Volunteer Aux-
iliary of Brewster Hospital (later rebuilt as Methodist Hos-
pital). Made up of mostly Deltas, the auxiliary operated the
hospitality cart at the hospital on certain days. She and
Lillian Smalls were also on the Advisory Board of Directors
of Brewster Hospital in the mid-1960s. Mrs. Mathis was later
given an award for 100 hours of service to patients at the
hospital.57

As chairperson of her sorority's Social Action Commit-
tee, Sallye Mathis helped organize and run one of the first
two Headstart programs in Jacksonville in 1965, when the
Delta chapters in Jacksonville and Los Angeles were given
grants for the projects. Their Headstart was held that
summer at First Baptist Church in Oakland, on the Eastside.
Later other agencies took over the program.58 As a member
of the Human Relations Council of Greater Jacksonville,
Sallye Mathis directed its Summer Enrichment Program for
20 disadvantaged children in 1966 at Bethel Baptist Institu-
tional Church. She was also elected to the Board of the
Jacksonville Urban League. Still an active member of Central
Baptist Church, she took over her mother's Bible class for
women after her mother died in 1963.59








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i~*~lr ,, 2i ::",
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Sallye Mathis, director of a 1966 Summer Enrichment Program of the Human Relations Council of Greater
Jacksonville at Bethel Baptist Instutitional Church, with children and a parent


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After her retirement from teaching in 1962, Sallye Mathis
also had more time to participate in the divil rights activities
of the NAACP in Jacksonville. She now had the time and
freedom to do things her husband would have considered
too dangerous for her. "I'm retired now, so they can't harrass
me or jeopardize my job," she said.60
In 1954 the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board
of Education of Topeka, Kansas, ruled that segregated schools
were neither "equal" nor in line with the Fourteenth Amend-
ment to the U. S. Constitution. This was the culmination of
many years of mostly successful litigation by the NAACP.
However, the decision and the directive in 1955 for deseg-
regation "with all deliberate speed" gave no timetable for
compliance. Thus the rulings "brought a simmering discon-
tent to an angry boil" among blacks, according to historian
Paula Giddings, and blacks turned to other tactics. The
refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her bus seat to a white
person on December 1, 1955, was no accident. She had been
secretary for the NAACP in Montgomery, Alabama, for the
previous twelve years. She, the NAACP and the Women's
Political Council there, were angry about past racial humi-
liations. They were looking for a test case, and ready to
support it with an organized boycott.61 The vision of A.
Philip Randolph and other earlier black leaders of non-violent
direct action to protest segregation was thus revived and
spread around the nation, including Florida. Martin Luther
King, Jr., often came to Randolph for advice and received
support from him.62
Before the Montgomery case was won by the blacks (in
1956), two black female students in Tallahassee, Florida, were
arrested for refusing to move to the back of a city bus on
May 26, 1956. A boycott of city buses was begun there by
students of Florida A. and M. University and some black and
white community adults. Marches and other demonstrations





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


were held by the students in Tallahas ee, in spite of jailing
and other tactics by whites.63
The use of the sit-in as a direct tactic was first used in
the South in Miami, Florida, on April 1, 1959, by the Con-
gress of Racial Equality (CORE), and then at some other
places, including Jacksonville, that year. It grew into a wide-
spread southern movement in 1960 after African American
college students in Greensboro, N. C., refused to leave lunch
counters where they were denied service. Taking part in an
early sit-in in Nashville, Tennessee, was Sallye Mathis' niece,
Marilyn Solomon, who was a student at Fisk University there.
On March 18, 1960, eight Florida A. and M. University
students in Tallahassee, led by student Patricia Stephens,
"became the. first sit-in demonstrators in the country to
accept a jail sentence rather than pay their fines." CORE and
other groups planned regional campaigns for action.64
The reaction to the Brown decision in Florida was con-
sidered "moderate compared to that in other Deep South
states." However, the Florida legislature enacted various
pieces of legislation to oppose school integration, and white
"citizens" councils were organized. In spite of intense feeling
agaifist integregation, on March 20, 1960, Florida's Governor
Leroy Collins urged moderation in solving the racial prob-
lems, based on a "Christian, democratic and realistic" point
of view. In April there was a sit-in victory in Miami when
some downtown department stores agreed to serve blacks.
However, until the civil rights bill was signed in 1964, the
law was generally on the side of segregation, and the dem-
onstrators were considered by white officials as agitators who
were disturbing the peace.65
Sallye Mathis was an active member of the Jacksonville
branch of the NAACP as it coordinated sit-ins, picketing,
marches and economic boycotts from 1959 to 1966. The
goals were mainly to be "allowed" to eat in restaurants, get







better jobs, use the restrooms of stores they patronized, and
sit in Hemming Park and other places. Like most school
employees, she had to help secretly at first, for fear of losing
her job. The front-line participants of this daring and some-
times bloody phase of the movement were mainly young
black men and women between the ages of 16 and 19. At
times they were joined by ministers who had the courage
and were less dependent economically on whites than were
most blacks.66
The local leader of this movement was Rutledge Pearson,
who taught social studies for 14 years in the Duval County
Public Schools. He served as head of the Social Studies
Department at Darnell-Cookman Junior High School and as
vice-president of the Social Studies Teachers Council of
Duval County. Sallye Mathis noted later that she and
Rutledge Pearson had taught Civics together for about five
years at Isaiah Blocker Junior High School-"teaching young
people the principles of city government. In recent years we
have worked together attempting to see that these principles
are put into practice in our city."67
Rutledge Pearson also inspired his former classmate,
Arnett Girardeau, to help lead the movement during the
summer of 1960 and after Girardeau returned to Jacksonville
in 1962 to begin his dental practice. Sit-ins were held at
downtown stores, while picketers walked outside, and there
were some arrests.68 Rodney Hurst, a young student of Pear-
son's, and others in the 450-member Youth Council gathered
statistical data on black patronage and employment patterns
at the downtown stores. They talked with store managers
about desegregating their lunch counters and hiring more
African Americans.69
The peaceful sit-in movement met with violence on
August 24, 1960, known as "Ax-handle Saturday." Non-vio-
lent NAACP picketers were attacked by Ku Klux Klan





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


members armed with ax-handles and baseball bats. Then "a
group of little tough kids out of Blodget Homes, called 'the
Boomerangs,'" and other blacks not under NAACP discipline
fought back. Some blacks used violent tactics against stores
and private property owned by whites. There was bloodshed
and one black was killed.70
After the disturbance, efforts were made towards peace-
ful solutions. At the next meeting of the NAACP Youth
Council, attended by an estimated 1400 blacks, an economic
boycott of downtown stores was planned instead of further
demonstrations. On August 30, the Jacksonville Ministerial
Association made plans to establish a bi-racial committee to
work on the problems. Like the Chambers of Commerce in
various other Florida cities, the Jacksonville Chamber of Com-
merce was interested in minimizing conflict and bringing
business and industry to the city. In December 1960 the
Chamber set up a Jacksonville Community Advisory Com-
mittee with seven sub-committees to work on the various
racial problems. In May 1961, this committee announced,
with the approval of the Chamber of Commerce, that some
stores had desegregated their lunch counters "after thorough
investigation and discussion by leaders of all segments of
community life." However, the refusal of Mayor Haydon
Burns to appoint an official bi-racial committee until 1964
"added fuel to the fire rather than dissuading people from
the movement," said Senator Girardeau.71
Following the 1960 riot, Rutledge Pearson kept his job
teaching social studies. However, he lost his additional job
as coach. Rutledge Pearson was elected president of the adult
local branch of the NAACP in 1961. In 1963 he was elected
president of the state branch. Most teachers did not dare to
participate openly in the demonstrations or even in regular
politics, for fear of losing their jobs, but Pearson was a rare
exception. Amy Currie, another teacher who marched,
explained: "Something stuck us in the side and woke us up.







I think Martin Luther King did a great deal to stir people
up to what they could do and not sit still."72
Senator Girardeau remarked that "between 1962 and the
beginning of 1965, as a result of our actions and demonstra-
tions, desegregation of the restaurants, stores and hotels
became just a matter of the course of time." It was mostly
a movement of young black teen-agers. Senator Girardeau
said that the young black women were more prone to non-
violence and accepting abuse than were young black men.73
In Jacksonville the NAACP directed most of the civil
rights demonstrations, while in other Southern cities other
groups usually led them. Lloyd Pearson, Jr., said that the
demonstrations were carefully planned in advance with law-
yers and ministers involved, and had local and national
NAACP lawyers to help afterwards. Thus there were fewer
jailings and smaller fines than in some other places. Pastor
Charles Dailey noted that, in challenging the public accom-
modation law, Jacksonville blacks had more local ministers
arrested than in other places. "We had a thing," he explained,
"that the problems we were dealing with were local ones and
local people ought to handle them." Dailey said that he
always felt that Martin Luther King, Jr., really wanted to
come to Jacksonville rather than St. Augustine. However,
"there was an unwritten law that he would not conie without
an invitation from the active civil rights leaders."74
Lloyd Pearson thought that the Jacksonville marches were
"very effective" in that
they sensitized a lot of good people, white and black,
who were sort of asleep, because the marches were
embarrassing to many people. It took courage on the
part of those who marched .... The marches dis-
proved many saying that we were happy under this
system ... It made some angry, but out of their
anger, after they cooled off from their anger, I believe





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


some of them went off into their closets and had a
chance to think with their real minds. Some of them
had a big change of heart.75
African American leaders continued to meet with man-
agers of various businesses, who were being hurt by organized
economic boycotts by blacks and by the fear people had of
shopping downtown while stores were being picketed. As in
other parts of the South, some of the managers spoke up to
urge the opening of doors, rather than fighting desegregation,
said Lloyd Pearson.76
The civil rights protesters were supported by many oth-
ers in the black community-either openly or secretly, for
fear of losing their jobs. Black professionals gave contributions
and some leadership. Numerous black sororities, fraternities,
churches and other organizations helped with contributions,
publicity and members who participated. Women worked
along with the men. Andrew Young noted in a eulogy for
civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer of Mississippi in 1977
that
women were the spine of our [civil rights] movement.
It was women going door to door ... meeting in voter
registration classes together, organizing through their
churches, that gave ... energy to the movement, that
made it a mass movement. Mrs. Hamer was special
but she was also representative. Hundreds of women
spoke up and took leadership.77
Besides money and workers, church ministers and lay
leaders also offered space for meetings, gave talks and had
speakers to inspire their members and others in the commu-
nity. With their "solid, large following," the church leaders
in the movement could demand the attention of the white
community," said Pastor Charles Dailey. He also noted that
much of the black leadership came out of the churches,
which channeled the black outrage and tempered its poten-







tial violence. The fact that the protest marches started from
the churches "helped maintain the dignity of the marches.
If it had not been for the discipline of the prayer vigils that
preceded some marches, there could have been bloody situa-
tions," he added.78
Many whites helped the movement secretly-being
afraid of being hurt by other whites. They gave money, made
phone calls of encouragement, or did things to open doors,
anonymously. Ola Mae Caesar commented that "it was beau-
tiful how some white women brought soda water to us in
the picket lines and told us to continue. Some had been
involved in interracial efforts for a long time."79
The Jacksonville NAACP had visits for advice and help
from national and regional NAACP leaders. In speaking at
mass meetings, Mrs. Ruby Hurley, NAACP regional director,
was "quite a speaker-a great help in inspiring people to
want to participate," commented Lloyd Pearson. "We were
reminded to stay within the NAACP's national policies and
to keep sending half our money to the national 'freedom
fund' to help chapters (like ours) in need of help."80
The Jacksonville NAACP also had frequent contacts with
NAACP leaders in Miami, Tampa and Savannah, Georgia,
and with other leaders of the black movements in St. Aug-
ustine, Tallahassee and elsewhere. In 1961 Martin Luther
King, Jr., spoke at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Jacksonville,
where he urged blacks to continue the non-violent struggle
for a just, equal society; he also met with African American
leaders at the home of Isadore and Mary Singleton.81 Among
Jacksonville blacks who were active in the St. Augustine
movement, Earl M. Johnson and Leander J. Shaw, Jr., began
work in 1963 as attorneys for the NAACP there. When
Martin Luther King, Jr., was confined by St. Augustine author-
ities in 1964, he was brought to the jail in Jacksonville, prob-
ably for his protection.82 Arnolta Williams said that during





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


the 1964 riots in St. Augustine, 100 copies of the Pittsburg
Courier, with articles in it by her, disappeared en route to
Jacksonville. Edward D. Davis noted that Dr. Mary McCleod
Bethune encouraged the graduates of Bethune-Cookman
College "to come forth as plaintiffs in the all-important
struggle."83
In August 1963, about 36 black and white residents of
Jacksonville rode by train to participate in the famous "March
on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." The march had been
proposed and directed by the 74-year-old A. Phililp Ran-
dolph for the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proc-
lamation. Frank Hampton, who worked actively on this
march of over 200,000 minorities and other civil rights advo-
cates, said it was a "turning point ... that brought the nation's
attention to the push for civil rights" and the need for federal
legislation.84
By September 1963 there was a new mood of increasing
militance among African Americans around the country,
who "now demanded immediate and fundamental social,
political and economic change." In October, over 1,000 blacks
marched through downtown Jacksonville to urge "better jobs,
freedom and dignity."85
In 1964, tensions increased in Jacksonville when the home
of a black child was bombed on February 6 and five Ku Klux
Klan members were charged for the bombing. The Chamber
of Commerce committee, the Jacksonville Ministerial
Alliance and the NAACP urged city officials to appoint an
official bi-racial committee to deal with the tensions, without
success. There was "orderly picketing" by the NAACP at
Jacksonville City Hall to protest unfair employment practices
in city government and "the failure of the city government
to act towards bringing down racial barriers."86
The tensions erupted in rioting on March 20. When
Mayor Burns deputized the fire department with the author-








ity to make arrests, blacks were angry and afraid that their
demonstrators might be attacked, as in other parts of the
country. Some local civil rights demonstrators were arrested
and convicted, and then a shot fired from a passing car killed
a black woman. When a bomb threat forced evacuation of
Stanton High School, the students stoned policemen and
firemen and burned cars of newsmen. Some blacks used
Molotov cocktails-for the first time. The people who
reacted violently "were people who didn't have anything to
lose and were trying to accentuate their resentment over
some things that were going on," explained Raiford Brown.
The NAACP branch leaders then requested state and federal
officials to intervene, in hopes of getting their attention and
bringing some pressure on the city.87
After the riot, Mayor Burns finally appointed an official
bi-racial Community Relations Committee which held hear-
ings and recommended desegregation. However, Lloyd Pear-
son thought that the committee "was not very effective, since
it had little power." The local NAACP continued leading
marches through downtown Jacksonville.88
Because of "the cumulative effect of civil rights struggles
in local communities," Congress finally was persuaded to
pass new civil rights legislation. President Lyndon B. Johnson
signed it into law on July 4, 1964. After the turbulence of
the previous few years, Dr. Girardeau and other civil rights
activists were surprised that the legislation passed.89
Sallye Mathis, who took part in these exciting struggles
of the early 1960s and was influenced by them, said later:
We knew we were living in the dark ages of Jackson-
ville [in the 1960s] .... What really gave us hope was
the passing of the Civil Rights Acts [in 1964] and
the Voting Rights Act [in 1965]. These acts outlawed
segregation in accommodation in any public place such
as hotels, restaurants. The day the bill was signed we





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


tried out several places to see if they would throw
us out. But they had to let us stay. The news and
everything has been different. Black people began to
feel a sense of wanting to be in there, wanting to
move into the mainstream. This bill did more for the
boosting of the morale and the spirits of black people
... [although] there still is much to be accom-
plished.90
However, the struggle for equal rights was not over.
Although federal law was now on the side of the integration
of most public and private facilities, there was opposition by
whites to desegregation in various parts of the country. As
Glenda Rabby wrote about Tallahassee,
the civil rights movement was more than just a legal
revolution; it transformed relations between blacks
and whites on every level of human activity .... The
actions of individuals in the large and small contexts
of life determined how and at what level the city
adjusted to an integrated society.91
By 1964, Sallye Mathis became visible as a leader in an
additional concern of blacks in Jacksonville--improving the
quality of education which they felt required the desegrega-
tion of the public school system. The suit to desegregate the
Duval County schools had been filed in December 1960 in
the U. S. District Court by Sadie Braxton for her children.
Because of her suit, Mrs. Braxton lost her job with the
county school system and had to move to Miami to seek
employment. Attorney for the case was Earl M. Johnson,
who filed school desegregation suits all around Florida. On
August 21, 1962, District Judge Bryan Simpson ruled against
the segregation of schools in Duval County, and partial inte-
gration based on freedom of choice began with the first and
second grades in 1964. However, school integration in the
county was very limited until 1972. Eddie Mae Steward, who







was vice president and education committee chairman of the
NAACP, allowed her children to be named as plaintiffs in
the lawsuit in 1971.92
Although by the end of 1964 "desegregation of busi-
nesses seemed a matter of time," explained Senator Girar-
deau, Jacksonville blacks "were having problems with how to
desegregate the schools, which had not improved much since
the 1955 desegregation order by the U. S. Supreme Court.
Girardeau and the NAACP treasurer Ulysseus Baety visited
a program in Nashville, Tennessee, and then started the
Citizen's Committee for Better Education in Duval County.
Wendell P. Holmes, Jr., was asked to be chairman, since
Girardeau was actively involved in direct action.93
Sallye Mathis, who served as secretary for the group,
"was there, about every second, to lend her comments, sup-
port, and expertise as a former teacher; she knew the school
system," said chairman Holmes. She was the only woman on
the committee, the other members being black clergymen or
other professionals who were also not dependent on white
employment. Holmes added that
it was essentially the same thing as an NAACP Edu-
cation Committee. Rutledge Pearson, president of
the NAACP, was an ex-officio member and, very
involved, as well as some other teachers who partic-
ipated secretly, such as Solomon Badger, Jr. Some
whites were supportive also, although not really on
the committee.94
Why did they form the committee? Wendell Holmes
explained:
We had two school systems-different standards for
white schools, buildings, funding, equipment, and
textbooks (or the lack of these). All of the things one
would normally find to provide for access to equal
opportunity for education were simply not there ....





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


The thrust was to desegregate, the theory being that
once the schools were integrated, then other things
would change. The concern was justified because
once the schools began to integrate, they began to
change the quality and quantity of these items."95
In December, 1964, local African Americans held a
three-day pupil boycott of the public schools, in order "to
spotlight dissatisfaction in the Negro community with ...
inequities here," said boycott spokesman Wendell Holmes.
School officials reported a total of approximately 41,000 black
pupil absences on December 7, 8 and 9. This meant a loss
to the school system of around $75,000 in state aid, which
was based on attendance. Rutledge Pearson was "investigated
by the school system in regard to the appropriateness of a
public school teacher calling for a pupil boycott." However,
with legal help from the national NAACP it was proven that
the boycott was called, not by the NAACP, but by Pastor
Charles Dailey for the Ministers' Interdenominational
Alliance, and so the case was dropped. Lloyd Pearson said
that it was impressive to see competent and confident black
lawyers from the national NAACP argue and win their cases.
Rutledge Pearson was not fired then but he was threatened
many times with the loss of his job by the school superin-
tendent, Ish Brant. "It is to Brant's credit that he did not
actually fire him," commented Senator Girardeau. However,
he added, Dr. William Muldrow was forced to resign from
his junior high school job when it was alleged that he encour-
aged his students to take part in the school boycott.96
The blacks weren't the only ones dissatisfied with the
Duval County public schools. Charles Dailey noted that the
committee got many calls from whites who recognized the
same problems of unfair promotions and lack of equipment
in the white schools. He added:







What a lot of whites didn't understand was that in
working hard to develop a system to oppress some,
they also oppressed themselves-in wasting time,
money, energy and human potential. We were fight-
ing to free and clean the whole system. We didn't
necessarily believe that in order to have quality edu-
cation you had to have so many white or black chil-
dren, [although] in a multi-ethnic culture the mix is
good.97

The (black) Citizen's Committee for Better Education
worked with white citizen's groups which included prominent
white citizens to change the tax structure so that the schools
would at last have the money needed. In order to shock the
community into improving the schools, several of these black
and white reform groups pushed for disaccreditation of the
15 Duval County secondary schools by the Southern Asso-
ciation of Colleges and Schools (SACS). This occurred, after
years of warning, on December 3, 1964. "The school system
had failed repeatedly to correct numerous deficiencies
because of the lack of local financial support," explained the
immediate past chairman of SACS, Dr. Herman Frick. Sallye
Mathis played a key role in getting the schools disaccredited,
said Dr. Charles Brooks.98

In January 1965, the Duval County Taxpayers Association
won a court victory which forced changes in the system of
taxation. A report on the school problems by George Pea-
body College, which was released in March 1965, blamed
the inadequacies of the school system on inadequate financ-
ing, undue political influence and poor administration. In
his study of the later consolidation of Duval County, Damon
C. Miller noted that the school issue was important because
"it was the beginning of a 'spirit of reform' cited by many
local leaders which culminated in the success of [the vote
for] consolidation in August 1967."99





SALLYE BROOKS MATHIS


The NAACP committee's report, "Still Separate Still
Unequal A Study Specifically Related to Discrimination
and Inequities in the Duval County Public School System
by the Citizen's Committee for Better Education in Duval
County," was presented in May 1965. Being the only ex-
school teacher on the committee and the only member not
busy with paid employment at the time, Sallye Mathis was
very influential. The report expressed the committee's con-
cern for the scholastic problems of the total community but
specifically with those of the black children. After a detailed
survey of black teachers and administrators and other
research, the committee concurred with the conclusions of
the report by George Peabody College. Problems noted in
the black schools were poor morale, overcrowding of classes
compounded by the gerrymandering of school districts to
keep the dual system, and the combining of grades. Buildings,
books and basic equipment were outdated and inadequate
so that teachers had to buy paper and other supplies out of
their own salaries. Better vocational education was needed.
There were political and unfair appointments of principals
and teachers, including job-selling, and the hiring of qualified
teachers at substitute teacher pay and terms. The report
concluded that "nothing less than the complete integration
of all facets of this school system will remedy its plight" of
clearly unequal "access to educational advantages for
Negroes." 100
Members of the committee went to almost every school
board meeting to try to present these concerns and exchange
ideas. Often the delegation was ignored; Sallye Mathis later
told of accompanying Wendell Holmes to a school board
meeting where he was scheduled to speak at two P.M. but
at five P.M. the meeting was adjourned without letting him
speak. "But we didn't give up," she added. "If what you
believe is right, it's worth fighting for." Their efforts soon led
to hearings regarding job selling for black teachers.101