1980 was the year I landed in Jacksonville, Florida. I was born in Philadelphia; PA and I have no memory of ever living there. I recall spending some time there visiting, but my heart, childhood and all my earliest memories are from Jacksonville, Florida. I was raised in the neighborhood of Grand Park by my grandmother Elnora Sampson.
Through my matriculation at Bethune Cookman (College) University in Daytona Beach, Florida, I gained a love for history and historical homes and sites. Growing up I had no idea of the rich history I was a part of every day living in Jacksonville. There are some historical sites and homes that have influenced my life’s path, gave me my fondest memories and shaped my values today. There are a plethora of areas, buildings and neighborhoods in Jacksonville that hold historical value. However; there are 10 that I have a connection to that I want to highlight.
10. Edwards Waters University
Florida’s oldest institution of higher learning that is independently operated as well as the first historically black college in the State of Florida. Founded in 1866 by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, to educate freedmen and their children, I grew up two and half miles away in the Grand Park area. On any day, I was on Kings Road at the present location of Edward Waters University. My aunt and uncle both attended Edward Waters University during the late 1970s and 1980s. The original campus was destroyed by the Great fire of 1901. After rebuilding the campus, it is now located at 1658 Kings Road.
9. Mt Olive A.M.E Church
As a fourth generation member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, there were frequent visits to several A.M.E churches around Jacksonville. Mt. Olive A.M.E Church was one church I visited. The church was constructed in 1921 and was designed by an African American architect, Richard Lewis Brown.
8. Mother Midway AME Church
Mother Midway is known as the “mother” of the Florida Conference of A.M.E. church that was organized in 1867 and also the East Florida conference in 1877. It is the first A.M.E. Church located in Jacksonville, Florida and also the location of where I spent many youth conferences and where I was crowned, Ms. Young People’s Department for the East Florida Conference.
7. Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church
Established in 1866 as “The Society”, is located at 201 E. Beaver Street in Jacksonville, Florida. The church is currently in its sixth building after the previous location, which was a 1,500 seat sanctuary. The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1901 This location was another church that hosted many conferences and meetings during my childhood.
6. New Hope A.M.E Church
Located at 2708 Davis Street in what is now known as the Sugarhill neighborhood of Jacksonville, is my home church. I spent many, many Sundays at this small historic church. One of the first pastors of the church was A. Phillip Randolph’s father, Rev. James William Randolph. A. Phillip Randolph was known as a labor unionist and a civil rights leader. He organized the first predominantly black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.