Migration of Blacks to Lakeland, Florida


 As of 2017, Lakeland's estimated population was approximately 106,000 of which about 20 percent (or 23,000) were Blacks.


In addition, Blacks in Lakeland live in residential and rental properties throughout the city.  Forty years ago, Blacks were limited to living in the Northside district, which was once referred to as Teaspoon Hill and later became the Paul Diggs Neighborhood.


During Lakeland’s first 100 years, its race relations were typical of most of America.  Public places were segregated and Blacks were discriminated against in housing, education and employment.  The Black community had its own schools, hospital, Nonetheless, Blacks were able to create a wholesome and close knit community despite injustice and intimidation.


Lakelandnorthside.com is dedicated to presenting information about Lakeland's Black community during the first 100 years, 1885 - 1985.  It is worth noting that the Black community has experienced some hardships as did many Black communities during the "crack" epidemic during the late 1980s and 1990s.


Nonetheless, members in the Black community have continued to make strides in education, in business, in the churches and as professionalin the churches and in business.


Edward Pickett III has for years effectively used social media to reach his congregation and religious followers.  Sherrian Strong, Prince Hixon Jr and Sonji Coney are successful small business people.  Gow Fields was first Black elected mayor of Lakeland in a city-wide election and James Niblack is the first Black to serve as a Battalion Chief in Lakeland's Fire Department.


Lakeland's Black community has a bright future.  The accomplishments of its members are often marginalized.  However, LakelandNorthside.com seeks to preserve the history of Lakeland's Black community and make it available for those who are interested in a strong community that is a remarkable place with remarkable people.


   Many churches were established in Lakeland's Black community in the first 100 years.  Since 1985, some newer churches have emerged  like Word Alive Ministries and Friendship Full Gospel.  View some of the current pastors below. Learn more about the history of Black churches in Lakeland....


   Education has been important to Blacks in Lakeland from the very beginning.   Blacks used space provided by the Black churches up until the early 1900s when the "Colored School," was established in the Moorehead community.  In the 1920s,
Wasington Park Grammar School was built and shortly thereafter, Washington Park High.  The Washington Park schools were moved and renamed William A Rochelle in 1950.  Rochelle High was closed in 1969 .  Learn more about the history of Lakeland's Black schools....

Washington Park High

Rochelle High


Like the majority of the South, Blacks in Lakeland were disenfranchised.  Blacks had very little say in politics aside from a few patronage appointments until 1968.  Since 1985, Blacks have made some political strides.  Learn more about the history of Black politicians in Lakeland....

l-r: Walter Williams, Gow Fields and Philip Walker have served as elected representatives on Lakeland's city government since 1985.  Guy Fields being elected as Mayor in a general election.

Mildred McMillon


Faith In Action


 In 2003, Faith in Action (FIA)was organized and has provided a variety of services to seniors, the  disabled and those in need in Lakeland's northside community.  Prior to FIA, the Neighborhood Service Center of Lakeland played an important  role in helping those in need during the 1970s and 1980s.

community Service



During Lakeland's first 100 years, there were Black-owned businesses throughout the Black community.  The number has  steadily declined since the late 1960s.  Since 1985, a few new businesses have developed including Kool Kids Day Care, Coney Funeral Home and the Ultimate Barber Shop.  Learn more about the history of Black businesses in Lakeland....

Sherrian Strong, Owner

Kool kids Day Care

Prince Henson, Owner

Ultimate Barber Shop

   For the first 80 years, Blacks had limited leadership roles in city government.    Learn more about the history of Lakeland's Black public servants....

James Niblack

Battalion Chief

Lakeland Fire Department

Sonji Coney, CEO/Owner

Coney Funeral Home



     Blacks have played an important role in educating Black children in Lakeland.  Since 1985, Blacks have held leadership roles in the public education system.  Learn more about the history of Black educators in Lakeland....

Kay Fields

Board Member, District 5

Polk County Schools

 Jacqueline M Byrd

Superintendent of Schools

Polk County, Florida

     Lakeland has produced some outstanding Black athletes since the Washington Park High School Sharks won the state championship in 1929.  Since 1985, some of the Black athletes  have become notable names in professional sports.  Learn more about the history of Lakeland's Black athletes....

 Tiffany Hayes, Guard

Atlanta Dream


Ray Lewis, Linebacker


National Football League

public healthcare


     Blacks worked and received healthcare under segregated conditions at Lakeland General Hospital (now Lakeland Regional Medical Center) until the late 1960s.  Since 1985, Blacks have served in many leadership position. Learn more about the history of Black public healthcare professionals....

Neriah Robert, Board

Lakeland Regional

Medical Center

Barbara S Harrison, VP

Lakeland Regional Medical Center


     Lakeland's Black community has produced some talented entertainers.  Since 1985, several actors, actresses and singers have graced entertainment stage.  Learn more about the history of Black entertainers in Lakeland....

April Grace


Actress & Movie Star

Norris Gurganious


Gospel Singer



   Since Lakeland's beginning, members of the Black community have served.  Learn more about  Lakeland's Black veterans....

Rickey Williams

United States Navy

   Many Blacks born and raised in Lakeland are trailblazers and have made important contributions in the communities were they moved and lived.  In each case, utilizing the education and values they gained growing up in Lakeland's Black community.  Learn more about the history of Black trailblazers from Lakeland....

Debbie Crumbley

International Youth Director

United Pentecostal CAOG

Ronald Roberts

Retired, Connecticut

State Program Director


Lakeland's Black Community

A place of change

After  100 Years

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.