Black History Month:  St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children

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St. Joseph's Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children

The St. Josephs Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children is a piece of black history in a place you would never thought you'd find it, Mandarin, a predominantly white suburb of Jacksonville, FL.

If you know the Mandarin area today it's not the same as it was when this one-room schoolhouse was built in 1898.

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St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children

History tells us Mandarin was majority black in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s.

According to Sandy Arpen with the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society, Mandarin today is only 7 percent black.

This historical building has survived different uses over the past 120 years but has again realized the original purpose, nurturing minds. In 1898, it was the minds of black boys and girls.

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St. Joseph's Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children

In 2019, it's the minds of everyone who didn't realize such a place existed.  But it does exist.   Where?

The St. Josephs Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children is located in the Walter Jones Historical Park
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St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children

The St. Josephs Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children is located in the Walter Jones Historical Park

The schoolhouse is located on the grounds of the Walter Jones Historical Park.  Do you know someone who may have attended this school? History begs you to speak up.

This isn’t the only piece of black history here. 

Walk inside the Mandarin Museum and you’ll see a variety of artifacts. 

One such item is a replica of the Steamboat Maple Leaf.   

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Steamboat Maple Leaf

When the ship was sunk in the St. Johns River, four people lost their lives.   Four black men.   They are remembered here in the Mandarin Museum.

Four people were killed when the Steamboat Maple Leaf sunk in the St. Johns River: Simeon Field, Eli Foster, Charles Sumner and Benjamin Wiggin.
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Mandarin Museum

Four people were killed when the Steamboat Maple Leaf sunk in the St. Johns River: Simeon Field, Eli Foster, Charles Sumner and Benjamin Wiggin.

Field, Foster, Sumner and Wiggin were asleep in this area of the ship.

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Mandarin Museum

When you visit the Mandarin Museum, you’ll learn more about Mandarin’s black history including how Harriet Beecher Stowe spent her time in this area.  You’ll also find out about a free black pilot by the name of Romeo Murray and his connection to the Maple Leaf.

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St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children

The park itself is open daily from dawn to dusk.  You can tour the museum and schoolhouse Saturdays, 9-4.

Listen to my interview (below) with Sandy Arpen about the St. Josephs Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children.   It answers your questions about exactly how the school got started, how the Sisters were punished for teaching black kids and what kids today say about segregation.

If you missed last week’s Black History Month spotlight on Augusta Savage, check it out here

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