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About Eartha White

A Brief Introduction to Eartha M. M. White

Known as the “Angel of Mercy,” Eartha M. M. White (1876-1974) was a businesswoman, philanthropist, and civil rights activist in Jacksonville. In her early years, she traveled north to New York to avoid the 1888 Yellow Fever outbreak in Jacksonville and later toured as an opera singer. After the death of her fiancé in 1896, she returned home and worked to establish a public school for African American children in Bayard in 1899. In 1904, Eartha White founded the Clara White Mission, named in honor of her adopted mother who instilled in her a desire to serve others from a young age.  She would eventually establish an orphanage, a refuge for unmarried mothers, the Old Folks’ Home for elderly African Americans living in poverty, and many more programs the benefited Jacksonville’s most vulnerable. Although White herself struggled financially, she was a successful business owner running multiple businesses. She used all profits to fund the Mission and her other charitable efforts. Her persuasive skill and large network of powerful connections also provided the funding and resources to run them. While not as outspoken in her civil rights activism as some of her contemporaries, White campaigned against lynching, encouraged black women use their new right to vote in the 1920 U.S. election, and served as a member of prominent of local and national civil rights organizations. White dedicated her life to materially supporting Jacksonville’s African American community and its poor regardless of race, improving the lives of many. White’s continuing legacy can be seen in the Clara White Mission and its current programs.

Selected Bibliography

“Eartha Mary Magdalene White.” In Notable American Women: The Modern Period: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Barbara Sicherman and Carol Hurd Green, 726-28. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1980

Gilmore, Tim. In Search of Eartha White, Storehouse for the People. Jacksonville, FL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014.

Jackson, David H. "’Industrious, Thrifty and Ambitious’: Jacksonville's African American Businesspeople during the Jim Crow Era." The Florida Historical Quarterly 90, no. 4 (2012): 453-87. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23264716.

Jones, Maxine D. "’Without Compromise or Fear’: Florida's African American Female Activists." The Florida Historical Quarterly 77, no. 4 (1999): 475-502. Https://www.jstor.org/stable/30150829.

Ortiz, Paul. Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida From Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. EBSCOhost.

UNF Thomas G. Carpenter Library. “Eartha M. M. White: Biographical Highlights.” UNF. Accessed January 23, 2020. https://www.unf.edu/library/specialcollections/manuscripts/eartha-white/Eartha_White_Biography.aspx.