Celebrate Black History Month in Downtown Jacksonville

Authors: Savanne Giroire, Downtown Vision Communications Coordinator, and Kayla Baker, Downtown Vision Marketing Intern

The best way to celebrate Black History Month is to learn more about the places, spaces and rich histories of the influential people that helped make Downtown and the LaVilla district what it is today. Downtown Jacksonville is rich with Black History — spanning from the jazz scene with Ray Charles to humanitarian organizations of today, including the Clara White Mission, there are so many ways to learn more and celebrate in #DTJax. Keep reading to learn about Black History in #DTJax and how you can celebrate its influence in Downtown Jacksonville.

The Eartha M.M. White Historical Museum | Clara White Mission

The Eartha M.M. White Museum is a continuing memorial to both Clara White and her daughter, Dr. Eartha White. The remarkable lives of these two women can be experienced through a walking tour of the museum, which was once Eartha’s home, on 613 W Ashley Street. Tour Eartha’s room, kitchen, guest room, dining room and the parlour while learning about both women through relics left behind. Their legacy has lived on for over 100 years through the Clara White Mission– an organization providing educational training, housing and advocacy to prevent and reduce homelessness.

The Ritz Theatre 

Ray Charles played with bands at the Ritz Theatre in the heyday of the LaVilla nightlife scene, making himself known as a talented musician when Jacksonville was considered the “Harlem of the South.” Today, the Ritz Theatre curates rotating exhibitions by local artists and houses an impressive collection of Black History memorabilia, showcasing what life was like during this era.
Built in 1929, the Ritz Theatre showcases Art Deco-style architecture typical of theaters from that period. Its design is credited to local architect, Jefferson Powell, known for his work on many Downtown buildings during this same period.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park

Credit: Jessie Ball duPont Fund

Construction is underway for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in Downtown’s historic LaVilla neighborhood. This park will pay tribute to two of our city’s renowned residents, James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson. The Johnson brothers penned “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” commonly known as the Black National Anthem, at their residence in LaVilla between 1900 and 1905.

Read More About the Park Here

James Weldon Johnson Park

Home base for First Wednesday Art Walk each month and situated in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville, James Weldon Johnson Park is one of the most well-known and oldest parks in Downtown Jacksonville. Whether you are wanting to grab lunch while listening to live music during their Live at Lunch series, taking place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or are joining us for First Wednesday Art Walk — James Weldon Johnson Park offers Downtown employees and visitors an oasis in the city’s center.

Learn More About James Weldon Johnson Park Here

The Jessie Mosaic Murals

At the Jessie, city-goers can admire mosaic portraits of our most treasured historical leaders. The Jessie partnered with Art Republic in 2020 to bring cultural and socially relevant works of art to the exterior of the building through the “Lift Every Voice” project.

Learn More About the Jessie’s Exterior Mosaics and the Influential Leaders Portrayed Here

What’s your favorite way to celebrate the important and influential Black History in Downtown? Tag us, or use #DTJax  for a chance to be featured on our page!