Black Trailblazers

History of the  Black community in Lakeland fl 1885 - 1985

Professionals in the Community






Legal & Political





Some Blacks moved away from Lakeland during the city's first 100 years.  Some left to go to college, some joined the military and others sought professional or economic opportunities.


In many cases, these trailblazers became productive members in the new communities in which they chose to live.  Some as business persons, some educators, some preachers, and some as public and elected officials.


A few of these Blacks who have made notable contributions are:

Loretta Dukes McKenzie

Education Administrator

Henry Otis Harris

Union Organizer

Harris, Henry






Velda H Browning







McKenzie, Loretta












Henry Otis Harris was born in Lakeland on July 26, 1929.  He was a veteran of WWII and Korea. He also was the first black firefighter in Patterson, NJ.


Velda Hawkins Browning was born in Lakeland.  She graduated from Rochelle High School in 1964 and became first Black telephone operator for General Telephone & Electronics (GTE)  in Lakeland.


Loretta Dukes McKenzie was born on Aug. 19, 1935, in Lakeland.  She earned a Master of Education from Howard University, she worked for the U.S. Department of Education as a deputy assistant secretary in the Office of School Improvement, and served as Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools.



Velda Hawkins Browning

1st GTE Telephone Operator

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The information displayed in this section is a small portion of information about the businesses and professionals in Lakeland's Black community during the first 100 years.   We know there is more.  Contact Us if you have information like pictures you don't mind sharing.