Historic Markers Across Florida

Delray History

Marker ID:  
Location: B.F. James and Frances Jane Bright Mini-Park on NW 5th Ave just north of Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, FL
County: Palm Beach
Coordinates: N 26° 27.780    W 080° 04.685
  26.463    -80.07808333
Style: Mounted **
Waymark: WMRTZQ


Delray History

After the Civil War, the population in the Confederate States declined dramatically as a result of the mass exodus of freed slaves. In Florida, however, the population increased from around 140,000 in 1860 to 530,000 in 1900. Half of these early settlers were Americans of African descent.
In 1894, Fagan Henry and Jane Monroe from Gadsden County established their homestead in Delray Beach on land purchased from Henry Flagler's Model Land Company. In the same year, William Linton, a Michigan postmaster, purchased 160 acres from Captain George Gleason for development in Delray.

SCHOOLHOUSE NUMBER FOUR, DELRAY COLORED opened on this site in a thatch hut in 1895 after the Black Community petitioned for and secured a teacher from Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, then Superintendent of Public Instruction. B.F. James (1895) and Frances Jane Bright (1900) were the first to teach in this school, which was the second in Southwest Florida dedicated to the education of Colored students. Under the "Separate but Equal" Educational Program, Colored students were entitled to six months of annual instruction, while their White counterparts received nine months, until the reforms of 1943.

Pleased by their success in starting the School, the settlers moved quickly to take advantage of Flagler's land set asides for cultural institutions. GREATER MOUNT OLIVE BAPTIST CHURCH, SAINT PAUL AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH (Mount Tabor) and the FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS LODGE 275 were founded in 1896, 1897 and 1899 respectively within one block of this schoolhouse site. SAINT MATTHEW'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH was founded in 1911 by Anglican Bahamians in the Southern part of the settlement.

These pioneers successfully raised crops despite the fickle changes in weather and the ever present plaque of pests. The devastating freeze of 1896, which prompted the departure of Linton and Swinton, served to unite the remaining settlers into a cohesive community. When the City incorporated in October of 1911, 16 of the 56 electors were African American men, including George Green Sr. who placed seventh in the general election.
Despite many hardships, the citizens of Delray have historically demonstrated their progressive spirit and a powerful sense of unity. In 1894, this handful of freed slaves battled the elements and showed unusual foresight by guaranteeing the education of their children and the foundation of cultural institutions. Ninety nine years later, 1993, the 40,000 citizens of Delray commanded national attention as an ALL AMERICA CITY distinguished by a unique ability to face the problems of contemporary life together.

City of Delray Beach