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Rubenstein Law Honors Legacy of African-Americans in FL History


In celebration of Black History Month, Rubenstein Law put together a video to honor contributions of African-Americans to the state of Florida. This highlights a few of the many men and women who have affected the lives of countless individuals throughout the course of our state's (and as a result, the rest of the nation's) history.

President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

Why We Celebrate

"Black History Month is an opportunity for us all to look back and acknowledge, while also looking forward towards the hopes and promises of tomorrow," said RL attorney Guerda Prosper. She said this time of year calls to mind a culture and a people that have inspired and accomplished so much.

Similarly, attorney Lisa-Gaye Smith finds inspiration from many people in our nation's history. "As a black woman, I pay homage to women like Charlotte Ray and Jane Bolin who were among the first black women to graduate from law school. Many black women in society today, such as Michelle Obama, continue to open new doors for us. They remind us that the sky is the limit, because 'there are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.'"

"For me, Black History Month is a living, breathing concept," said attorney DeWayne Terry. "While it is great we celebrate the memorialization of the struggle and accomplishments of black people in America, we must always stay mindful and vigilant of what the dream was really about—freedom in all aspects of life: legal, financial, academic, and spiritual freedom, to name a few." 

The individuals featured in our video blazed a trail for those who would follow. They made courageous efforts to bring justice, equality and social change to America. They saw the needs in their own communities and selflessly sacrificed their time, comfort and energy for what they believed in. 

Some of Florida's Trail Blazers


  • J. Rosamond Johnson - a composer and singer from Jacksonville during the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote the music to a poem written by his brother James. The song would become known as the "Black National Anthem."
  • James Weldon Johnson - Author, activist, educator, lawyer, diplomat born in Jacksonville. He wrote the words to the poem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," set to music by his brother J. Rosamond.
  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was a teacher/professor, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian and civil rights activist best known for starting a school for African-American girls in Daytona Beach which would later become Bethune-Cookman University. She was not only BFFs with the Roosevelts, but acted as an advisor to the President.

  • Eartha M. M. White - Political activist, businesswoman and humanitarian. Born in Jacksonville, she was considered a "renaissance woman." She was an opera singer all while being the first female real estate broker in Jax, the first professional social worker in the city, and operated a soup kitchen from her home.  In 2000, the Florida Department of State designated her as a Great Floridian.

  • Zora Neale Hurston - Folklorist, anthropologist, ethnographer, and writer who put her hometown of Eatonville, Florida on the map by featuring the everyday life of the African-American community in her novels.
  • Ray Charles - Raised in Greenville and St Augustine, FL, he pioneered the soul music genre during the 1950s by combining blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles into his music. He wrote and recorded his first songs in Florida (and even dedicated one to his home state: "St. Pete Florida Blues"), before creating chart-topping hits for Atlantic Records.  He canceled a scheduled performance at Bell Auditorium in Augusta, GA in 1961, because the dance floor would be restricted to whites, while blacks would be obligated to sit in the balcony. He later performed at a desegregated Bell Auditorium in October 1963 with his backup group, the Raelettes. 
  • Patricia Stephens Due was one of the leading African-American civil rights activists in the United States. Along with her sister Priscilla, and other college students trained in nonviolent protest, she spent 49 days in one of the nation's first jail-ins, refusing to pay a fine for sitting in a Woolworth's "white only" lunch counter in Tallahassee in 1960.

NOTE: All content on this website, including historical insights and any other data, is for informational purposes only. This post is intended to provide general information to our readers and to honor the individuals mentioned; the information contained in this post should be regarded as an invitation to learn more about the topic.

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