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1619 - 2019: 400 Years of African American History

Commemorative Speaker Series

The Commemorative Speaker Series features local scholars, leaders, and everyday people sharing their experiences, motivations, inspirations, and topical expertise bringing African American history and culture to life in a personal, powerful way.

Eretta Morris

Eretta Morris

speaker's pictureEretta Morris will discuss African Americans on U.S. Postal Stamps. This presentation will include a display of posters, pictures, and collected stamps. Ms. Morris will bring to life leading historical figures and events in African American History through stamps.

Eretta Morris is a retired history teacher and a member of ESPER, the Ebony Society of Philatelic Events and Reflections, an African American stamp collecting group. 

Event Date and Location

October 24, 2019 at 12:15 pm 

St. Augustine Campus Library, room L-112

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will by October 10.

Gary Monroe

Gary Monroe

Gary Monroe is a leading authority on the Florida Highwaymen and has authored several books about the artists including, The Highwaymen: Florida's African American Painters, which brought the work of the Highwaymen renewed attention nationwide.

As part of SJR State's commemoration of 400 Years of African American History and the exhibit of Highwaymen paintings touring SJR State this fall, Mr. Monroe will present, Painting Paradise: The Art of the Highwaymen at the St. Augustine and Palatka campuses. In this presentation, Mr. Monroe will tell a story that relates the racist attitudes of the past, the nostalgia for a once unspoiled Florida, so-called "outsider art," and the creative spirit of the original 26 painters.

As Mr. Monroe explains, "The Highwaymen's story is one of entrepreneurs who sought to rise above the meager existence offered by the agricultural and citrus industries – a common vocation for many African American workers in Florida at the time. Art to the Highwaymen was a craft, a way to earn a living. At the time, no gallery would show the work of unknown, self-taught African-American artists. Instead the Highwaymen painted from their garages and backyards on inexpensive Upson board, framed their work with carpenter’s trim, then traveled Florida's east coast on weekends to sell their still-wet paintings "from door to door," at to hotels, offices, businesses and residences. They were a prolific group. Volume was a key to their survival as artists." Their technique allowed them to produce brilliantly colored landscape paintings quickly and efficiently. It is estimated that they created some 200,000 of their original paintings, according to Mr. Monroe, whose research and books about the Florida Highwaymen triggered a renaissance of demand for their paintings in recent years.

Based on Mr. Monroe’s nomination, the Highwaymen were inducted into Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004. He facilitated National Public Radio when they produced their Highwaymen series, has delivered some 300 public lectures, written many articles about the Highwaymen, and has curated museum exhibitions of Highwaymen art. Mr. Monroe is currently writing a book about painter and Highwayman, Alfred Hair. In early 2020, the University Press of Florida will be publishing a book of Monroe's South Beach photographs. 

Event Dates and Locations

October 29 at 6:00 p.m.

Palatka Campus, 5001 St. Johns Ave., Palatka, FL 32177 in Florida School of the Arts, room 125

If you need information or assistance, please call the campus Library at (386) 312-4153.

All are welcome to these free events!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will by October 1, 2019.

Online Resources about the Highwaymen featuring contributions from Gary Monroe:

ARTS IN AMERICA; Sunshine for Windy Dreamscapes  New York Times article (SJR State students, faculty & staff have unlimited access to the NYT)

Celebrating Images of a Long-Gone Florida  New York Times article

OVERLOOKED: Alfred Hair   New York Times article

The Highwaymen: Speed-Painting in the Sunshine State  from NPR

Related EventThe Road Well Traveled: Celebrating the Art and History of Florida’s Highwaymen, An Exhibit at St. Johns River State College‚Äč 

Past event

October 8 at 6:00 p.m.

St. Augustine Campus2990 College Drive, St. Augustine, FL 32084 in Building J - the Criminal Justice building - room J-149

If you need information or assistance, please call the campus Library at (904) 808-7474.

Ron Cleman

Ron Coleman

Ron Coleman was the first African American student athlete at the University of Florida. Mr. Coleman will speak about his experience attending the University of Florida during the Civil Rights Movement. 

Currently, Mr. Coleman is the principal and chief executive officer of BARONCO Management Consultants Inc. In addition to serving on the St. Johns River State College Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2017, Mr. Coleman has been a member of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce since 2001 and served as board chair from 2009 to 2010. He was the regional vice president for the University of Florida Alumni Association and served on the organization’s board of directors, and has been involved with the University of Florida Gator Boosters. From 2001 to 2008, Mr. Coleman was a member of the Clay County Development Authority and served as chairman. He also served in the United States Navy from 1975 to 1997.

Mr. Coleman is featured in the 2008 book, 100 Pioneers: African-Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport which is available at the SJR State Library.

Event Date and Location

November 6, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. 

Orange Park Campus, room TBA

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will by October 23.

Larry Beaton

Larry Beaton

Larry Beaton will present The Newtown Community of Palatka.

Newtown was an African American suburb of Palatka for freed slaves developed by Judge James Burt beginning in 1866. It was located between the downtown business district and another community of Judge Burt's called Palatka Heights.  Development of the nine block area over the next 20 years included residences, businesses, the first Central Academy school, a station for the fire department, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, and Mt. Tabor First Baptist Church.

Larry Beaton is a 5th generation Palatka resident and lives in the South Historic District of Palatka in the 1904 home built by his grandfather. Larry is a charter member of the Putnam County Historical Society currently serving as historian. He has been researching, collecting, and sharing Palatka and Putnam County postcards, photographs, and documents for over 40 years.

 He has  shared stories of our local history through lectures and presentations to groups throughout northeast Florida. In June, 2018 the Palatka City Commission designated Larry as the honorary historian of the City of Palatka.

Event Date and Location

November 13, 2019 at noon

Palatka Campus, Building A, Valhalla Hall

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will by November 4.

Dr. Michael Butler

Dr. Michael Butler 

Dr. Michael Butler will discuss Race, History, and St. Augustine: Its Importance Then & Now.

Dr. Butler graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in History from Spring Hill College, a Jesuit college in Mobile,  Alabama, where he was a President’s Scholar. He received both his Master’s and Doctorate in History from the University of Mississippi, where he specialized in 20th century Southern History with an emphasis on the Civil Rights movement. He is currently a Professor of History at Flagler College. 

  • Author, Victory After the Fall: The Memories of Civil Rights Activist H. K. Matthews
  • Published in the Journal of Southern History, the Florida Historical QuarterlySouthern CulturesPopular Music and Society, and the Journal of Mississippi History
  • Author of May 2016, Beyond IntegrationThe Black Freedom Struggle in Escambia County, Florida, 1960 - 1980 http://uncpress.unc.edu/books/13352.html
  • Has written more than 40 book reviews and encyclopedia entries for various academic journals.

Event Date and Location

November 21, 2019 at 12:15 p.m. 
St. Augustine Campus, room C-116

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will by November 13.

Robert A. Mattson

Robert A. Mattson

Rob Mattson is an amateur scholar of the naval history of the Civil War. He has participated for the last 15 years in Civil War Rob Mattsonliving history and re-enactment events portraying a Union Navy sailor. He is the author of The Civil War Navy in Florida and has contributed to various Civil War web sites about naval actions in Florida.

Mr. Mattson will present a talk entitled African Americans in the Civil War Navies. This program will present an overview of the participation and experiences of African American sailors in the Union and Confederate Navies during the war. Mr. Mattson will also profile some individual sailors and their exploits. For this presentation, Mr. Mattson will wear the uniform of a Union Navy sailor and will have a display of the weapons and tools used by sailors in the war. 

All are welcome to this free event! 

Resources Recommended by Mr. Mattson

Slaves, sailors, citizens: African Americans in the Union Navy - SJR State students and employees may request this book via interlibrary loan

Bluejackets and Contrabands: African Americans and the Union Navy - This eBook is accessible to current SJR State students and employees

Blacks in Blue Jackets: African Americans in the Civil War - A brochure produced by the Hampton Roads Naval Museum and the Naval History and Heritage Command

Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial - Developed by the U.S. Navy to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War

Event Date and Location

December 5, 2019 at 5:30 p.m.

Palatka Campus, room L219C

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will by November 13.

 

May 15, 2019 at 5:30 p.m.
Palatka Campus, Building A, Valhalla Hall
All are welcome!

Jacobi Bedenfield

Jacobi Bedenfield

Jacobi Bedenfield was born and raised in Pensacola, Fla. He graduated from West Florida High School of Advanced Technology in 2014. He then attended Santa Fe College and became president of the student body. In 2017, Mr. Bedenfield was elected state president of  the Florida College System Student Government Association (FCSSGA), becoming the leading student voice for over 800,000 students throughout the state. He has been an advocate for college affordability, student safety, increasing student resources and accessibility, and increasing funding among institutions of higher learning. 

Today, Jacobi Bedenfield is the owner of Bedenfield Community Consulting and is a regional post-secondary resource specialist with the State Headquarters of Take Stock in Children, Inc. Mr. Bedenfield has received numerous awards including the Bob Graham Distinguished Service Award, 40 Future Leaders of the Gulf Coast, Commissioner of Education Leadership Award, FCSSGA President of the Year, and SFC Civic Engagement & Service Award. He is passionate about people and serving the community. In his free time, Mr. Bedenfield enjoys kayaking, mentoring, going to the movies and reading books, especially those authored by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Mr. Bedenfield will deliver a talk entitled, You Are Their Legacy. As Mr. Bedenfield explains, "People today are the legacy of those who have fought and struggled for the past 400 years, since the beginning of slavery in the United States," and he hopes this talk "will further motivate students to think about what their legacy will be 400 years from today."

Event Date and Location

February 13, 2019 at noon 

St. Augustine Campus, C building Auditorium

Yvonne Hayes Hinson

Yvonne Hayes Hinson

Yvonne Hayes Hinson is a product of the Gainesville, Florida community: born, raised and educated. She is a graduate from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has taught children across the United States and received national recognition for her 15 years of service as the principal of a magnet school of the arts.

Yvonne also has a long history of public service, from her time as an activist fighting segregation, to her work with various community boards and organizations, to her years on the Gainesville City Commission. She has served as the Membership Chair of the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee, the Finance Chair of the Gainesville Housing Authority Governing Board, and Education Chair of the Alachua County Branch N.A.A.C.P. She has held many leadership positions within her church, Mt. Pleasant United Methodist.

Today, Yvonne considers all constituents to be her neighbors. She has been a passionate advocate for equality, career training programs, and public education in Gainesville and wants nothing more than to continue her efforts on a national scale.

Join us as she talks about her life and work in this free event .

Event Date and Location

April 3, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. 

Palatka Campus, Building A, Valhalla Hall

Christen Mitchell

Christen Mitchell 

speaker's photoChristen Mitchell is the Deputy of Voter Outreach for the Putnam County Supervisor of Elections. Christen says she likes getting people excited about what she’s excited about. At this point in her life that’s the improvement of Putnam County.

Before joining the Elections team she worked for the non-profit Keep Putnam Beautiful educating Putnam County residents on the importance of caring for where they live.  When the outreach position became available with the Elections office it was an easy transition for her skills and passion. Believing that the ultimate way to care for where you live is to exercise your right to vote for the things that happen in your community and the people who run it, Christen hopes to see greater engagement and turnout in future elections. 

Event Date and Location
September 10, 2019 
Times: 10:50 a.m. - noon and 1:40 p.m. - 2:55 p.m. 

Location: Palatka Campus, Building A, Valhalla Hall

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will two weeks before the event.

Related Event September 10, 2019  The Whole Staircase Film Series - Voting Matters

Vicky Oakes

Vicky Oakes

Vicky Oakes is the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections. Ms. Oakes' presentation is titled Voting Matters…are you informed?

Vicky Oakes began her career in the Elections Office in March of 1988, serving as the Assistant Supervisor for 23 years. Vicky was appointed Supervisor of Elections by Gov. Rick Scott on September 6, 2011. In November of 2012 she was elected to serve as Supervisor, and is currently serving her second term. 

 

Event Date and Location

October 3 at 9:25 a.m.

St. Augustine Campus, Building C, room C-116

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will by September 26.

Related Event October 1, 2019  The Whole Staircase Film Series - Voting Matters

Celebration • Education • Reflection

H.R.1242/Public Law 115-102, the 400 Years of African American History Commission Act, establishes 2019 as a year of "commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies, at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619."  The commemoration is intended “to recognize and highlight the resilience and contributions of African-Americans since 1619; to acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States; and to educate the public about the arrival of Africans in the United States; and the contributions of African-Americans to the United States.” In recognition of this commemoration and with the Act serving as a guide, the SJR State Library has organized a year-long series of events that will provide educational experiences and resources to students and the community that celebrate the history and culture of African Americans.

Site created and maintained by Dr. Christina Will. Pages will be added and maintained throughout 2019.
Maintenance will cease at the end of 2019 but this site will remain accessible.