Unsung Black women are notable in Jacksonville history

In honor of Women's History Month, let’s reflect upon the lives of unsung African-American women who helped build Jacksonville.

The former Richmond Hotel was owned and operated by Alice Kilpatrick.

The Richmond Hotel at 422 Broad St. was the finest hotel in Jacksonville for African-Americans. Owned and operated by Alice Kilpatrick, the Richmond was the only hotel readily available to African-Americans that continuously operated between the first decade of the 20th century and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Featuring 48 rooms and a 65-seat restaurant, guests included Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

The former Central Hotel owned and operated by Euretha White.

Euretha White’s Central Hotel was significant in its own right. It opened in 1912 at 605 Broad St. And it, too, was a landmark, serving as the home of the Jacksonville Negro Welfare League (which became the Jacksonville Urban League in 1947).

While 10 hotels catering to African-American travelers were in existence by the 1940s, travel for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era was still difficult and potentially dangerous. As a response, the Negro Motorist Green Book was first published by Victor Hugo Green in 1936 to serve as a guide identifying safe places to eat, sleep, buy gas and shop in environments free of racial humiliation, discrimination and violence. In addition to hotels, the guide pointed travelers to “tourist homes” or private residences made available by African-American owners.

The Travellers Aid Colored Branch at the Jacksonville Terminal rail station provided room referral to homes such as that of Ludie D. Jefferson. A resident of Sugar Hill, Jefferson operated tourist homes at 2140, 1838 and 1834 Moncrief Rd., during a time when the thoroughfare served as an African-American gateway into Downtown Jacksonville.

A view inside the Jacksonville Terminal concourse in 1921. Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

There is much to be learned from the women of Jacksonville’s history serving as inspiration for women in our community today. Although forgotten, these women serve as a small example of enterprising African-American women who played a role in the development of Downtown, the city’s contribution to the civil rights movement and the maturation of blues and jazz into world-renowned music genres.

*Article by Adrienne Burke, AICP, Esq. and Ennis Davis, AICP was originally published in the Florida Times-Union.* Burke is an attorney, policy planner, historian, graduate of University of Virginia, University of Florida, board member with the Florida Public Archaeology Network and a former Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Trustee. Davis is a certified senior planner, graduate of Florida A&M University, Trustee with the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, Groundwork Jacksonville board member and APA Florida Chapter board member. He is the author of the award winning books “Reclaiming Jacksonville,” “Cohen Brothers: The Big Store” and “Images of Modern America: Jacksonville.” Davis has served with various organizations committed to improving urban communities, including the American Planning Association and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. A 2013 Next City Vanguard, Davis is the co-founder of ModernCities.com and TheJaxsonMag.com — two websites dedicated to promoting fiscally sustainable communities. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com*