Eartha M.M. White Historical Museum

613 W. Ashley St.

A fixture on West Ashley Street since the Great Depression, the Clara White Mission building was originally constructed as the Bijou Theatre in 1908. The Bijou closed and was reopened in 1910 as the Globe Theatre. At the time, Ma Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett Rainey) was one of the venue’s most popular musicians and was known to receive three or four encores every night. By the end of her career, Ma Rainey had become billed as the Mother of the Blues, making several recordings with influential jazz figure Louis Armstrong. Jelly Roll Morton, the Father of Jazz, also performed at the Globe on a regular basis during his brief time living in Jacksonville.

Closed prior to World War I, the old venue would eventually be resurrected as Eartha Mary Magdalene White’s Clara White Mission in 1932. White, who sang as a lyric soprano in John Ishma’s Oriental America on Broadway, was also a noted local humanitarian and civil rights activist. Notable guests and friends who visited the mission during White’s lifetime include Mary McLeod Bethune, Zora Neale Hurston, Ray Charles, A. Philip Randolph, and Martin Luther King Jr.

After her death, the Clara White Mission converted her third-floor residence into a continuing memorial to both White and her mother, Clara White. Dedicated on December 17, 1978, the Eartha M.M. White Memorial Art and Historical Resource Center is a museum that contains most of her furniture, objects, art and possessions.

Edward Waters University

1658 Kings Road

Recognized as the first historic Black college in the state of Florida, Edward Waters University was initially founded in 1866 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In continuous operation since 1883, the school was established to educate freedmen, women and their children. The institution has been located at its present site since 1904. In addition to serving as a seminary for the AME church in Florida, Edward Waters was for many years the only institution of higher learning available for African Americans in Jacksonville.

During the Great Depression, the campus served as the state “negro headquarters” for the National Youth Administration, established in 1935 by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Mary McLeod Bethune served as the director of the administration’s Division of Negro Affairs. Featuring buildings designed by late 19th and early 20th century African American architects, the oldest portion of the urban university campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district on August 8, 2022.

Freedom Park

10946 Fort Caroline Road

The settlement of Cosmo was established after the Civil War by Gullah Geechee families from coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of Central and West Africans who have traditionally lived along the coasts of southeastern North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Northeast Florida.

In what’s now Arlington, settler James Bartley and his wife Polly purchased 40 acres of land in 1877 and are recognized as the first African American landowners in Cosmo. Cosmo residents established a community around hunting, farming, mullet fishing, crabbing, shrimping and harvesting oysters at Mill Cove. At its height, the community boasted a post office and school.

Cosmo remained in isolation until the construction of the Mathews Bridge and the development of Arlington as a popular suburb during the 1950s. During the following decades, river dredging negatively affected Mill Cove’s marine line, while displacement and suburban gentrification have negatively affected the Cosmo community.

In 2022, the city of Jacksonville established Freedom Park on the former settlement’s site, featuring the first public markers in Jacksonville honoring Gullah Geechee people. The park stands as a testament to the work of the Cosmo Historical Preservation Association.