The St. Josephs Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children is a piece of Black history in a place you would never thought you’d find it, Mandarin, a predominantly white suburb of Jacksonville, FL.
If you know the Mandarin area today it's not the same as it was when this one-room schoolhouse was built in 1898.
History tells us Mandarin was majority Black in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s.
According to Sandy Arpen with the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society, Mandarin today is only 7 percent Black.
This historical building has survived different uses over the past 120 years but has again realized the original purpose, nurturing minds. In 1898, it was the minds of black boys and girls.
In 2019, it's the minds of everyone who didn't realize such a place existed. But it does exist. Where?
The schoolhouse is located on the grounds of the Walter Jones Historical Park. Do you know someone who may have attended this school? History begs you to speak up.
This isn’t the only piece of Black history here.
Walk inside the Mandarin Museum and you’ll see a variety of artifacts.
One such item is a replica of the Steamboat Maple Leaf.
When the ship was sunk in the St. Johns River, four people lost their lives. Four Black men. They are remembered here in the Mandarin Museum.
Field, Foster, Sumner and Wiggin were asleep in this area of the ship.
When you visit the Mandarin Museum, you’ll learn more about Mandarin’s Black history including how Harriet Beecher Stowe spent her time in this area. You’ll also find out about a free Black pilot by the name of Romeo Murray and his connection to the Maple Leaf.
Listen to my interview (below) with Sandy Arpen about the St. Josephs Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children. It answers your questions about exactly how the school got started, how the Sisters were punished for teaching Black kids and what kids today say about segregation.
If you missed last week’s Black History Month spotlight on Augusta Savage, check it out here!