“Not For Ourselves, But For Others": African American Women Organizing and Leading in Jacksonville, Florida, and the United States

By Carol Lynne Hemmingway

Many would say that Eartha M. M. White was a prominent African American female leader in Jacksonville. However, what do people mean when they call her a “leader”? How did the primarily elite and middle-class African American women that supported Black America before the Civil Rights Movement view their activities and work? What did leadership and organizing mean to them? This exhibit explores several ways black women in Jacksonville and the United States more broadly supported their local communities, negotiated new boundaries to gendered behavior, and worked together to contribute to the black freedom struggle in the United States.

Black women’s work within the church laid the foundation for their efforts to support their local communities through humanitarian aid. Club work was a more secular extension of women’s service, providing official leadership opportunities within national, state, and city organizations like the National Association of Colored Women. In matters of educating the youth and providing an alternative black legacy within a discourse dominated by racist ideas, black women served in important roles as educators and historical preservationists. To work towards racial equality, black women played the role of diplomat negotiating better representation and treatment within American politics. Often at the same time, they worked as political agitators employing direct action and focused campaigns to achieve specific goals.

Selected Bibliography

Colburn, David and Jane Landers, eds. The African American Heritage of Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1995.

Corbould, Clare. Becoming African Americans: Black Public Life in Harlem, 1919-1939. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Gaines, Kevin Kelly. Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Gaines, Kevin Kelly. Uplifting the Race: Black Middle-class Ideology in the Era of the "New Negro," 1890-1935. PhD diss., Brown University, 1991.

Garrett-Scott, Shanette. Banking on Freedom: Black Women and U.S. Finance Before the New Deal. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019.

Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth. Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Hale, Grace Elizabeth. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940. New York: Vintage Books, 1999.

Jones, Martha. All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2007.

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 California Press, 2005.

Credits

UNF History/Spanish major Carol Lynne Hemmingway wrote this exhibit in the spring of 2021 with guidance from Dr. Felicia Bevel of the UNF Department of History. Hemmingway completed this exhibit as part of her role as the student leader of Editing the Eartha M. M. White Collection and with support from the Dr. Carolyn Williams Research Award.