7 Black Facts About Jax You Didn’t Already Know!

In celebration of Black History Month, here’s a few things you probably didn’t know about Jacksonville.

1. The Father of the Lindy Hop and Swing Dancing was from Jax

Destroyed by the construction of I-95, Campbell Hill is a lost early 20th century African-American neighborhood along McCoys Creek near downtown Jacksonville. One of Campbell Hill’s most famous residents was Frank Benjamin “Frankie” Manning. During the Great Migration, Manning’s mother, who was a dancer, left Jacksonville, moving the family to New York in 1917. Learning to dance at an early age, Manning eventually became known as one of the founding fathers of the Lindy Hop and Swing Dancing. During his career he toured with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and others. He also appeared in movies including Jittering Jitterbugs and Hot Chocolate, Malcolm X and Stomping at the Savoy.

2. Before American Beach, Jacksonville’s Manhattan Beach was the place to go

The 447-acre Hanna Park is one of Jacksonville’s most visited public spaces. A little known fact is that the property was also home to Manhattan Beach, Florida’s first beach for African Americans during segregation. Manhattan Beach was established by Henry Flagler and his Florida East Coast Railroad company around 1900, for the African American workers that they employed.

The park flourished for many years, until about 1940, when it was superseded by another destination, Amelia Island’s American Beach. A few years later, the land was donated by Winthrop Bancroft, who required in exchange, the name be changed to Kathryn Abbey Hanna. Hanna was a teacher and author from Chicago, who moved to Florida and served on the board of Parks and Historical Places. During the 1970s, the City of Jacksonville acquired additional property, expanding Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.

3. Forty Acres and a Mule meets Jacksonville

Forty acres and a mule refers to a concept in the United States for agrarian reform for former enslaved African American farmers, following disruptions to the institution of slavery provoked by the American Civil War. Many may have heard of the term “40 acres and a mule”. However, most don’t know that the land earmarked for former slaves included Jacksonville. Here’s a brief description of the area from General Sherman’s Special Field Orders on January 6, 1865:

[ quote ]The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns River, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the Negroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.

At Beaufort, Hilton Head, Savannah, Fernandina, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, the Blacks may remain in their chosen or accustomed vocations–but on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves, subject only to the United States military authority and the acts of Congress.[ quote ]

What would Jacksonville look like today if Sherman’s Orders were actually carried out by the federal government? …… read more


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