Reconstruction After the Civil War

Nearly a century before the modern Civil Rights Movement, the conclusion of the Civil War pushed the nation into a new era without slavery. During the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War, laws were created to protect the rights of former slaves and for the first time, all African-Americans were legally permitted to own land, go to school, and run businesses. African-American men were able to vote and hold public office.

Congressman Josiah Thomas Walls (between 1871 and 1876)

Congressman Josiah Thomas Walls (between 1871 and 1876)

Image number: RC00830

Born into slavery in Virginia, Walls fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he acquired land in Alachua County and became involved in politics. In 1871, he became the first African American from Florida elected to the U.S. Congress. It was not until 1978 that Florida elected Carrie Meek, the state's second African American to serve in Congress.

Judge James Dean: Monroe County, Florida

Judge James Dean: Key West

Image number: PR14947

Having graduated first in his class from Howard Law School, Dean was elected Monroe County judge over two white candidates in 1888. Dean was said to be the first black county judge elected in Florida after Reconstruction.

Governor Francis P. Fleming removed him from office in 1889 for performing a marriage ceremony for a black woman and a white man (although the groom said he was mulatto).

Post-Reconstruction

The presidential race of 1876 between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden was one of the most controversial in American history. Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina were unable to declare a winner.

The Democrats agreed to support Rutherford Hayes’ presidency. In exchange, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.

Without much support from the federal government, the struggle for equal rights for African-Americans continued. Floridian’s such as Mary McLeod Bethune, James Weldon Johnson, and A. Philip Randolph fought for educational rights, business opportunities, and an end to segregation and racially-motivated violence.

Mary McLeod Bethune with a line of girls from the school (ca. 1905)

Mary McLeod Bethune with a line of girls from her school: Daytona (ca. 1905)

Image number: N041432

Mary McLeod Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls in 1904.

Duval Shoe Hospital (191-)

Duval Shoe Hospital: Gainesville (1910s)

Image number: PR03813

The Duval Shoe Hospital was located at 216 East Union Street. The man in the photograph is unidentified, but was probably the owner, Mr. Charles W. Duval.

Florida State Normal and Industrial School class of 1904: Tallahassee, Florida

Florida State Normal and Industrial School class of 1904: Tallahassee

Image number: RC02520

Eartha M.M. White and her mother Clara White: Jacksonville, Florida

Eartha M.M. White and her mother Clara White: Jacksonville, Florida (1910)

Image Number: PR00852

Born in Jacksonville, the 13th child of a former slave, Eartha Mary Magdalene White attended schools in Florida and New York. An educator and publisher, she established the Clara White Mission in honor of her mother during the Depression in the 1930s. She also ran a prison mission and donated property for community projects, including the first park for black children.

In 1967, she began the Eartha M.M. White Nursing Home, which grew into the area's largest employer of blacks. She was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame in 1986.

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson

Image number: RC02769

Born June 17, 1871, in Jacksonville, Florida, James Weldon Johnson was a teacher, poet, essayist, social activist, diplomat, and song writer. He was the first African American admitted to the Florida Bar and served as the first African-American General Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1920-1930. A prominent creative writer in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, Johnson wrote the lyrics for the civil rights anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Film still from the motion picture <em>The Flying Ace</em>(1926)

Film still from the motion picture The Flying Ace (1926)

Image number: N041443

This film was made at Norman Studios in Jacksonville, Florida. Richard Norman, who directed The Flying Ace, used an African-American cast and crew to make the movie. The movie stars Lawrence Criner as a World War I fighter pilot who returns home as a hero. With help from Peg Reynolds,he rescues Kathryn Boyd and her father from railroad thieves. The 1926 movie was billed as “the greatest airplane thriller ever filmed.” The Flying Ace grossed nearly $20,000, making it Norman’s most profitable film.

Portrait of A. Philip Randolph (19--)

Portrait of A. Philip Randolph (ca. 1940)

Image number: RC10874

A. Philip Randolph, the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was born in Crescent City, Florida, and grew up in Jacksonville. The son of a Methodist minister, he attended the City College of New York, and later published The Messenger, a radical black magazine. As a result of his efforts, the 1937 contract between the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Pullman Company cut working hours, increased pay, and improved working conditions.

Randolph was also a major influence in ending discrimination in defense plants and segregation of the U.S. military. He was director of the August 28, 1963 March on Washington, D.C. — the largest civil rights demonstration in American history.

Eleanor Roosevelt visits with Mary McLeod Bethune (1937)

Eleanor Roosevelt visits with Mary McLeod Bethune (1937)

Image Number: PR00795

Bethune was active in the fight against racism and served under several presidents as a member of the unofficial African American “brain trust.” In 1936, she was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the director of the National Youth Administration’s Division of Negro Affairs. She also founded the National Council of Negro Women, was an active member of the National Association of Colored Women, and was instrumental in establishing Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona.

Miami police officer John Milledge (between 1944 and 1946)

Miami police officer John Milledge (between 1944 and 1946)

Image Number: PR20204

Milledge was involved in Civil Defense activities in the African-American community during World War II, which led to his being named one of the five original black officers of the Miami Police Department on September 1, 1944.

Mary McLeod Bethune awarded citation from Harry S. Truman (1949)

Mary McLeod Bethune recognized by Harry S. Truman (1949)

Image Number: PR00787

Left to right: President Harry S. Truman; Mary McLeod Bethune; Madame Vijaya Pandit, India’s ambassador; and Dr. Ralph Bunche of the UN. All are recipients of the citation for outstanding citizenship from the President.

Group portrait of members attending the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters convention in Washington, D.C. (195-)

Group portrait of members attending the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters convention in Washington, D.C. (1950s)

Image number: PR76767

The membership of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters included the African-American porters and maids who worked on the railway trains.

Jim Crow Laws and Segregation

The Jim Crow laws mandated the separation of blacks and whites in public areas. Schools, railroad stations, beaches, and many other public places were segregated. Restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains had separate facilities for whites and blacks.

Segregated waiting room at railroad depot: Jacksonville, Florida (1921)

Segregated waiting room at railroad depot: Jacksonville (1921)

Image number: RC09666

Woman by sign blown down during hurricane: Virginia Beach, Florida (1950)

Woman by sign blown down during hurricane: Virginia Beach (1950)

Image number: RC13705

Virginia Beach is on a barrier island off the coast of Miami in Dade County.

Choke ’em down lunch room diner: Belle Glade, Florida (ca. 1939)

Choke ’em down lunch room diner: Belle Glade (ca. 1939)

Image number: RC04621

The sign advertises “White & Colored Served.”

In an era of segregation, this diner was unusual.