It was with much sadness that I heard the news of bomb threats made against Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) here in the United States. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of books by African American authors are being banned during black history month. As I stated in another post, banning books only fuels curiosity, especially on the part of children and young people, to make them want to read these books even more.

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston Library of Congress

Books are among the vehicles by which news, information and entertainment are brought to us. Those books that tell about our history should be sought after, not banned. They teach us so much of how our culture and practices came into being and about the men and women who helped shape those practices. I admit that some of the material may be “uncomfortable” for some of us to digest, but that’s the very essence of good literature. If the books we read don’t trouble our conscience and make us “uncomfortable,” they are failing in their duty.

Have you ever read the Bible? The most banned and burned book of all times? Some parts of the Bible will make you so uncomfortable you may have to put it down and come back to it at another time. Yet, the Bible is always on the bestsellers list. As I searched for something on black history to write about, I noticed this book on my bookshelf by Kevin M McCarthy. It’s called Black Florida, and it’s a city-by-city guide on churches, schools, homes and other important sites in Florida. With news of the bomb threats against (HBCUs) still playing in the background of my mind, and because I live in Florida, I decided to find two schools that are connected with famous African Americans.

The first one is The Florida School For the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine. This state-funded institution has been serving the needs of many Floridians since 1885. Its most famous alumnus is Ray Charles, who spent his early life in Greenville, Florida. When he began to go blind at the age of seven, his parents sent him to the St. Augustine School For the Deaf and the Blind where he learned to play the piano and prepare to begin a successful musical career.

Another black college that boasts a connection with a famous black history personality is Florida Memorial College. Well-known author Zora Neale Hurston, famously known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, lived upstairs in a two-story house at 791 West King Street, just east of the campus while she taught classes at the school, then called Florida Normal and Industrial Institute. This school, which was built in 1918 on the site of the Old Hanson Plantation, has since relocated further south to Miami Dade County.

As someone who has made Florida my home, I feel proud to know that these two famous African Americans, who have so enriched our lives, once lived in Florida. That’s the beauty of good literature. In my next post, I will highlight more about the history of Florida as it pertains to black history.

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