The Movement

A black news reporter is attacked by whites at Little Rock’s Central High School. This image was shown around the world, including in the Soviet Union, as an example of American duplicity in human and civil rights.

On September 2, 1957, Governor Orval Faubus announced that he would call in the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the African-American students’ entry to Central High, claiming this action was for the students’ own protection. In a televised address, Faubus insisted that violence and bloodshed might break out if black students were allowed to enter the school. The following day, the Mother’s League held a sunrise service at the school as a protest against integration. That same day, federal judge Richard Davies issued a ruling that desegregation would continue as planned the next day.[1]Dunn, Black Education in Florida, p.52.

Whites taunt a lone black student on the first day of integration of Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. Federal troops were sent in by President Eisenhower to restore order and enforce integration of the school.[2]Dunn, Black Education in Florida, p.74.

The Little Rock Nine arrived for the first day of school at Central High on September 4, 1957. Eight arrived together, driven by Bates. Eckford’s family, however, did not have a telephone, and Bates could not reach her to let her know of the carpool plans. Therefore, Eckford arrived alone. The Arkansas National Guard ultimately prevented any of the Little Rock Nine from entering Central High.One of the most enduring images from this day is a photograph of Eckford, notebook in hand, stoically approaching the school as a crowd of hostile and screaming white students and adults surround her. Eckford later recalled that one of the women spat on her. The image was printed and broadcast widely, bringing the Little Rock controversy to national and international attention.[3]Dunn, p.53.

In response to the Brown decisions and pressure from the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Little Rock, Arkansas, school board adopted a plan for gradual integration of its schools. The first institutions to integrate would be the high schools, beginning in September 1957. Two pro-segregation groups formed to oppose the plan: the Capital Citizens Council and the Mother’s League of Central High School.Nine black students had been recruited by Daisy Gaston Bates (1914-99), president of the Arkansas NAACP and co-publisher, with her husband L.C. Bates, of the Arkansas State Press, an influential African-American newspaper. Daisy Bates and others from the Arkansas NAACP carefully vetted the group of students and determined they all possessed the strength and determination to face the resistance they would encounter. In the weeks prior to the start of the new school year, the students participated in intensive counseling sessions guiding them on what to expect once classes began and how to respond to anticipated hostile situations. The group came to be known as the Little Rock Nine.[4]Dunn, Black Education in Florida, p.51.

Desegregation of Schools: The 101St Airborne at Central High School

With the arrival of the 101st, the nation witnessed again a stunning spectacle on TV; elite paratroopers of one of the most honored divisions in the United States Army escorting young black children where once there had been a mob. The soldiers set up their perimeter. Their faces were immobile and, unlike the Guardsmen’s, betrayed no politics, only duty. As they marched in, the clear, sharp sound of their boots clacking on the street was a reminder of their professionalism. When the segregationists in the street protested, the paratroopers turned out to be very different from the National Guard soldiers who had so recently been their pals. The men of the 101st fixed their bayonets and placed them right at the throats of the protesters, quickly moving them out of the school area.[5]Dunn, Understanding Our Past, p.5.

Marijuana and Slavery

Marijuana was used in Cuba and in the British colonies to pacify overworked and anxious slaves.It was also used by American slave holders. President George Washington, who owned hundreds of slaves, tried to convert hemp into marijuana presumably for his slaves and or himself. His own notes reveal his effort to cross pollinate the plant to create pot as we know it.South Carolina pot growers provided marijuana to slave owners throughout the South. Marijuana likely reached Florida plantations by way of the Caribbean since thousands of slaves were brought to the United States from there.

Slaves in church on the Rockville plantation near Charleston, S.C. in 1863.

Slaves often were forced to attend the church that their owners attended but in rare instances, they were allowed their own churches late in the slavery era. The masters insisted that the slaves attend church with them so that they could hear the preacher tell them that God wanted them to obey their masters and mistresses. The slaves sat in a segregated area, often up front, so that no one would miss the word of God.

Black History Assignment for Upper Grades Students by Dr. Marvin Dunn Booker T. Washington v. W.E.B. DuBois on Black EducationHow did Booker T. Washington (left) and W. E.B. Dubois (right) differ in their approach to education for black people when slavery ended? Who won the debate and why? Students should research this question and write a full page summary.

The answer is Booker T. Washington believed it was best to educate the newly freed black people to work with their hands. DuBois believed it was best to teach them to work with their heads. Booker T. won because his approach was less threatening to whites. Many black universities were set up using the Washington model. Florida A & M University was one of them. Bethune Cookman College in Daytona was established on the same Washington model.

Washington gave a famous speech in Atlanta in which he said blacks and whites can remain as separate as the fingers of the hand while working together on common goals. Racist whites loved that message. DuBois and others resented it. Millions of dollars were given to Booker T. to establish and run his Tuskegee Institute in Alabama while very little money went to Dubois and his educational approach at Atlanta University. DuBois eventually gave up on America and settled in the Soviet Union. (Feel free to send me their responses as I may be able to respond to some of them. Turn off the television and get them working. Just because school is closed is no reason to stop learning.)

Presidents Who Owned Slaves

Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845), served as president 1829-1837, from South CarolinaAndrew Jackson bought his first slave, a young woman, in 1788. By 1794 his business included slave trading and he had purchased at least 16 slaves. In the 1820s Jackson owned about 160 slaves. He did not free his slaves in his will. In 1822 Jackson said; “As far as leniency can be extended to these unfortunate creatures I wish you to do so; subordination must be obtained first, and then good treatment.” (James, Marquis. Andrew Jackson: Portrait of a President. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1937, p. 31)[6]Dunn, Understanding Our Past.

Dr. Mary McLeod BethuneMy education in Florida schools skipped over slavery with a few drawings of slaves picking cotton and appearing happy to be doing it. They had neat little cabins with little black children playing in the background. The underlying message was that everything was alright and slaves were happy to be slaves, after all look at the dancing and singing they do.

Florida was complicit in my miseducation because it imposed upon us a racist educational system that denied us our heroes, heroines and fighters. It was an effective, intentional, and insipid way of milking ambition from generations of black Floridians. For example, Charles P. Bailey, of Punta Gorda, owned a funeral home in DeLand. As a fighter pilot with the all-black 99th fighter squadron, he won the Distinguished Flying Cross after flying 133 combat missions over Europe. He shot down three enemy airplanes. This squadron became known as the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

I knew Mr. Bailey as I grew up in DeLand. He should have been a celebrated hero for us to look up to, but as it was for many black men in the South, once they left the military, no matter how heroic their service, their accomplishments had to be forgotten or at least suppressed.

I was a grown man before I learned that Charles P. Bailey was anything other than an undertaker. Even today, race enters into the equation as schools determine which black heroes survive in history. Black schools are often named for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, but not for Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey.

In 1955, when I was in the tenth grade, I heard about the lynching of a fourteen-year-old black boy named Emmett Till in Mississippi. He was practically my age! The Till lynching was a defining moment in American history. America, with the exception of many whites in the South, was appalled. The boy had been kidnapped by three white men and murdered for having made a pass at a white woman at a small store in Money, Mississippi. The woman’s husband, and two other men, were believed to have committed the crime.

Till’s body was tossed into a river where it was discovered several days later in a severely decomposed state. His mother refused to have his casket closed at his funeral, and the photograph of his grotesquely disfigured face was printed in Jet magazine and elsewhere. The impact was sensational. I saw it, and I was fascinated by the image. Particularly after the Till lynching, I became even more aware of my own vulnerability as a black male in the South. There has never been a time after that, including today, when I was not aware of that vulnerability.

In the fall of 1955, I returned alone to DeLand to live with my grandmother Leona and to complete high school at Euclid Senior High School, the black school that my mother had attended. My other grandmother, Cora, had died by this time. My education in both Dade and Volusia County schools was seriously lacking in black history. I did, however, get to see Mary McLeod Bethune a short time before her death in 1955.

A group of students, including me, was taken over to Bethune-Cookman College to hear her speak. Her main message that day was that we should be proud that we are black. She told us that, with study and self-discipline, we could accomplish anything we wished. She was one of three black personages whom we were allowed to study in school. The other two were George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. Carver was stressed more than the other two. The school systems in both counties made certain we knew all about Carver and his research with peanuts, while hiding other heroes from us.

My grandmother Cora knew Bethune. Daytona, where the college was located is about twenty miles from DeLand. She spoke of her as I was growing up. She called her “Mother Bethune”.[7]Dunn, A History of Florida Through Black Eyes, p.16.

The image speaks for itself. Often when plantation-owners fell upon hard times (or merely wanted instant income) they would “sell off” slaves. Actually this was considered to be in bad taste by really rich slave-owners who considered it to be beneath them to break up slave families as seen here. That said, when push came to shove, no slave regardless of age, was immune from the auction block.[8]Dunn, Understanding Our Past.

The Cape Florida Lighthouse erected in 1825In 1790, when Florida was still under the control of Spain, a Spaniard named Pedro Fornills applied for a tract containing 175 acres on uninhabited Key Biscayne. In 1804, Fornills left St. Augustine in a newly purchased schooner to settle the island. He was accompanied by his family, two Spanish companions, and several slaves. With his slaves, Fornills brought his tract of land under cultivation, but his involvement in the venture was short-lived. Being far from the protection of Spanish guns at St. Augustine, he faced raids by marauding English and French ships. In 1805, Fornills returned to St. Augustine where he died shortly thereafter, but some of his slaves who had escaped into the Everglades. were left behind. One of Fornills’ companions, a white man known only as Vincent, also stayed on the island with some of the slaves and successfully grew crops of guinea corn and coffee. They lived for several seasons on the island, but their ultimate fate is a mystery. The slaves left by the Fornills experiment may well have been the first blacks to settle permanently in what is now Miami-Dade County. The fact that blacks remained on Key Biscayne in the early 1800s is supported by historian Jim Woodman in his book about the early settlement of the island. According to him, after the failure of the Fornills venture, “There were no white settlers in the next few years, instead hundreds of Indians and Negroes swarmed over the island. In the twenty years between the departure of Fornills and the building of the Cape Florida Lighthouse in 1825, Key Biscayne was frequented by gulls, sea turtles, Indians, and escaped slaves from Georgia and other southern states. Cape Florida, at the tip of Key Biscayne, was the departure point for runaway slaves on their way to the Bahamas and freedom. It was a well-chosen point. Key Biscayne stands nearer than any other piece of land to the world’s mightiest current, the Gulf Stream. Andros Island and several others of the Bahama Islands were ultimately settled by slaves who had escaped from the United States and launched themselves to freedom from Key Biscayne. According to one expert, in 1821, the year the United States took control of Florida from Spain, more than a hundred slaves and Indians were living on Key Biscayne. Many of them were waiting for Bahamian fishermen to take them across the straits to the Bahamas and freedom.

Slaves in Florida, as elsewhere in the South, were considered by law to be chattel and were owned in the same manner as one owned horses or cows. Manumission, buying one’s freedom or having it purchased by someone else, was difficult, expensive and rare. As property, slaves were subject to taxation. In 1828, the Legislative Council levied on slave-owners a tax of 25 cents for each slave between the ages of 15 and 50, and 10 dollars on every slave hired out. In 1839, the tax was raised to 50 cents a head. Slaves were valued according to their age, although a skilled mechanic of any age was valued at 2,500 dollars in Ocala in 1863. Black children, eight years of age and younger, were valued at 800 dollars each. Workers between sixteen and twenty-five were valued at 1,200 dollars. Those between thirty-five and fifty were valued at 900 dollars and those over fifty at 300 dollars each. Despite their status as chattel, Florida slaves had legal protections, at least on paper. Slaves were protected by law against cruel and unusual punishment by their owners; the penalty for such was a fine of up to 500 dollars depending on the nature of the offense. It is interesting to note that all fines collected for these offenses were paid into the territorial treasury for the use of the literary fund, which, of course, benefited whites only. According to Florida law in 1828, a capital crime committed by a slave, depending upon its severity, could be punishable by “a moderate whipping, having his ears nailed to posts, having his hand burnt with a heated iron in open court, and ultimately, the death penalty.” Witnesses on behalf of slaves were subjected to similar punishment if found guilty of lying on behalf of the slave.[9]Dunn, A History of Florida Through Black Eyes, p.2.

Reparations for Slavery (Secondary Students)

Read this essay, then respond to the question at the end.

Should America Pay Reparations for Slavery? by Dr. Marvin Dunn Enslavement not only deprived slaves of who they were, it also deprived them of who they might have become. Who should pay for that? The life span of a slave was four years shorter than the life span of a white person. Who should pay for that?

It was against the law to teach enslaved children to read. Who should pay for what that has costs the nation generations later? State and federal laws made it easier for whites to acquire land. Consequently, African Americans today are comparatively landless. Who should pay for that? Whatever responsibility and guilt, if any, that white America feels for the impact of slavery on American blacks, it is ephemeral. It shows itself during tragic moments in the black experience, such as the Birmingham church bombing in 1963 that killed four black children, or the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When those tragic moments fade from public view, so does the passing hint of national guilt for what brought us to that painful moment. But there is no discernable lasting sense among white Americans of collective responsibility, much less collective guilt, for the destructive impact of slavery and anti-black violence has had on African Americans generations after the fact. Some whites ask, “Why should I have to pay for something I had no part in, and nor did my ancestors?” The prevailing view among whites today is that slavery happened a long time ago and black people “should get over it”. Many whites believe civil rights laws have leveled the playing field and if a black person in America today is not making it, it’s his or her own fault. They argue that their own parents or grandparents arrived in America only a few decades ago adding, “We got nothing from slavery. We worked for what we got.” But it does not matter when one’s relatives arrived in America, white skin has always been an asset and black skin has always been a liability. Not only is the American playing field not leveled, millions of African Americans, through no fault of their own, cannot even get onto it. Critics of reparations argue that there is no way to determine which blacks should get paid. I agree. Reparation funds for slavery should not go to individual African Americans. No reasonable arguments are being made for individual blacks to receive money as reparations for slavery. One big issue immediately would become who among the nation’s black ethnic groups are African American? Caribbean blacks, for example, would not be entitled to reparations for slavery in America. Reparations should go to the venerable, established, respected institutions and organizations that specifically serve the advancement of African Americans. Reparations should be paid especially to institutions and public organizations that uplift the black communities of our country, especially in education. Reparations money should provide permanent financial support for historically black colleges and universities. Reparations money should go into schools and libraries that serve black communities, rural and urban and should be used to support scholarships for college and professional schools for African American students as well as for training in vocational and trade skills. Reparations money should support programs for the rehabilitation of African American criminals and for their reintegration into their communities. The endemic and pernicious ramifications of slavery in American society cannot be overcome in a generation or two. Blacks were enslaved in America for over three centuries. It may well take as many centuries since the end of slavery, even with reparations, for true racial equality to be a reality in America.”

Adapted from my unpublished manuscript, “The Kingsleys: An America Paradox”)

Student Assignment: Write a two-page essay against your own position on reparations for slavery in America. In short, argue against yourself.

Slavery in Florida

As early as 1835, five or six large slave plantations were operating successfully along the Halifax River in north Florida. The typical plantation home was a handsome two-story building, often constructed of bricks, slave-made from material on the plantation itself. Some mansions were designed for comfort, being well supplied with large windows and verandahs running all the way around the house. Often built along the lines of classical Greek architecture, the house usually stood at the end of a long, oak-lined driveway and was surrounded by landscaped gardens. Normally, from its location on a high point, the mansion would command an expansive view.

Typically, at some distance from the house stood a row of slave cabins. Surrounding the main house might be a gin house, an overseer’s house, stables, a carriage house, a blacksmith’s shop, and a loom house. Some plantations had additional outbuildings such as infirmaries or hospitals. Heavy equipment usually consisted of a gristmill, cotton gin, and engines to operate them. The plantations often had corncribs, a sugar mill, and other necessary facilities.

Frequently, plantations also had their own spinning and weaving operations and/or tanneries where black seamstresses and cobblers made clothing and shoes for slaves, and sometimes for whites. The inventory of Richard Harrison’s plantation in Madison County lists five spinning wheels and a loom. There was a tannery on Lyndhurst, William J. Bailey’s plantation in Jefferson County, where hides were cured and made into leather shoes for his slaves. Both of Bailey’s two prominent plantations, Lyndhurst and The Cedars, were largely self-sufficient. The Cedars itself consisted of 5,500 acres of land, approximately two thousands of which were under cultivation. Bailey owned 260 slaves, and his yield of ginned cotton in 1850 was 550 bales.


1 Dunn, Black Education in Florida, p.52.
2 Dunn, Black Education in Florida, p.74.
3 Dunn, p.53.
4 Dunn, Black Education in Florida, p.51.
5 Dunn, Understanding Our Past, p.5.
6, 8 Dunn, Understanding Our Past.
7 Dunn, A History of Florida Through Black Eyes, p.16.
9 Dunn, A History of Florida Through Black Eyes, p.2.