History of the Community

1885 - 1905

1906 - 1925

1926 - 1945

1946 - 1965

1966 - 1985


Civil rights movement

The Civil War officially abolished slavery.  In 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution gave Blacks equal protection under the law. In 1870, the 15th Amendment granted Blacks the right to vote.  For a decade or so, there was a period of "reconstruction"  were Blacks held leadership roles and public office.  Then came "Jim Crow".


Many whites, especially those in the South, were unhappy that Blacks who they once enslaved were now more-or-less their equals.  To create an environment where Blacks were insignificant, whites passed Jim Crow laws that established rules for separate public facilities, schools and in some cases separate towns.  Blacks were prevented from voting on the rules by requiring them to pay poll taxes and or pass literacy tests.  If that failed, they may have faced physical violence and murder.


  Segregation gained a solid foothold after the US Supreme Court ruled in 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, that separate but equal public facilities were constitutional.  In 1915 the movie "Birth of a Nation", though fictional, provided a distorted and untruthful view of Black life, and a landscape for the social justification of segregating Blacks and relegating them to a life of secondary citizenry.  The movie also wrongfully glorified the Klu Klux Klan and its brazen and illegal acts of intimation, violence and murder.


By the mid-20th century, Blacks began to push back against the f prejudice and violence against them. They were moving away from the conciliatory tone professed by Black leaders like Booker T Washington,  and to a more assertive and confrontational tone professed by Black leaders like WEB Dubois who in 1909 established the Niagara Movement organization, which later became the National Association of Colored People or NAACP.


Amid tensions of racial equality, a couple of US presidents took  major steps to further civil rights at the federal level.  President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 on June 25, 1941. The order opened national defense jobs and other government jobs to all Americans regardless of race, creed, color or national origin.  In 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981 to end discrimination in the military.


In light of the contribution Blacks made in WWII and the racist reception they received upon returning home after the war, the civil rights movement began to gain momentum.   The Presidents' executive orders helped set the stage for grass-roots initiatives to enact racial equality legislation across the country.  The Supreme Court ruling in 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, overturned the foundation of the segregationist Jim Crow laws.  The Court indicated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," which dismissed the underlying principle established in Plessy v. Ferguson.


In Lakeland, like the rest of American, the Black community was excited about the Supreme Court's ruling but braced for what it would mean for their community.  Like much of the South, the Klu Klux Klan had a presence in Lakeland and operated in some cases with the acceptance of some of the the local white leadership.  In all cases, the Klan goal was to intimidate and terrorize the Black community.


Lakeland's city leadership began to take steps to address grievances and racial tensions that were developing in the city.  In the 1954, Lakeland hired it's first Black police officer, Edward Pickett.  Within the next six months, it also hired three additional Black officers who were Thomas Hodge, Samuel King and Samuel Williams.



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These pages contain a small portion of information about the people and places that made up Lakeland's Black community the first 100 years.   The sources include articles by LaFrancine Burton, the book by Dr. Neriah Roberts, Facebook, community members, etc.  Contact Us if you have information like pictures you don't mind sharing.