The Other Side Of Paradise
An historical look at the trials and triumphs of Indian River County's African American Community.
Walter Jackson, now 102 years old, is still an activist in his community. Jackson’s parents arrived in Gifford in 1914. He is photographed at his home where he has lived for over 60 years. Jackson travels to Fort Pierce every week to visit his wife in a nursing home.
Joe Idlette still recalls how his father, Joe Nathan Idlette, would tell him that when he first arrived in Vero Beach in 1923, a bell would ring every night at 9 p.m. The tolling of the bell was the signal to any black person still in Vero Beach that it was time to leave.
This type of segregation was not unique to Indian River County. Segregation, enforced through “Jim Crow” laws, had been the rule in all parts of the United States since the end of the post-Civil War period of Reconstruction in 1887, and would remain in force until the 1960s.
Due to this legacy of segregation, black Americans had been forced to create their own de facto communities. Throughout Florida there existed neighborhoods and towns that were primarily and even entirely populated by African-Americans. Some of these communities no longer exist. The demise of Rosewood in 1923, for example, came about as a result of a violent altercation between a white mob and the town’s residents. An allegation of rape, which was subsequently determined to be false, caused the black residents to flee their homes and businesses, never to return.
Read the entire article in the Summer 2005 issue