May 2022: Scott Matthews, What Makes Jacksonville Unique?
Dr. Scott Matthews, professor of history at FSCJ, will reflect on the 200th anniversary of the founding of Jacksonville by exploring what has made the area’s history, culture, and identity unique. Using images, audio, and video, he will draw examples from more than four centuries of northeast Florida history and focus on a couple of important themes: how our area has functioned as a contested borderland between empires and as a cultural crossroads, a place that’s both a part of Florida and the Deep South and distinct from them. He will also talk about how these topics relate to a new course he will be teaching at FSCJ this fall on the history of Jacksonville. This course will be accessible to the wider public in 2023 and he hopes it will help promote community conversations about the relevance and importance of local history.
February 2022: Adonnica Toler, The Amazing Life of Eartha White
In honor of Black History Month, Adonnica Toler of the Ritz Theatre and Museum will present on the life of Eartha White, one of Jacksonville’s most highly respected residents. Many know of the famous Miss White because of the Clara White Mission (named after her adoptive mother). But this woman, who was born in 1876 and lived 97 years, contributed to the greater Jacksonville community in countless ways through her philanthropy, education and her humanitarian spirit. And she had connections to the Mandarin area, of which many are not aware. She started and taught at a school in Bayard for Black children and purchased land on State Road 13 (now San Jose Blvd.) and gave it and the first Harriet Beecher Stowe Community Center building to the Black community in Mandarin.
August 2021: Brent Martin, William Bartram in Northern Florida
Brent Martin has been a conservationist and educator for most of his life and is considered an expert on the Bartrams. Currently, he serves as the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy and is a co-owner, with his wife Angela, of a Southern Appalachian guide service, Alarka Expeditions. Prior to his work at the conservancy, he was Southern Appalachian Regional Director of the Wilderness Society. He is also a poet and an author.
Mr. Martin will discuss William Bartram’s travels through Northern Florida and the St. John’s River valley during the 1760s with his father, as well as time spent exploring there in the 1770s. Bartram loved the St. John’s River, and this discussion will include the subjects of Native American customs and beliefs he observed, the plant and animal world, and his artistic renderings of the area. We will also explore the internal landscape of Bartram: his motivations and beliefs, and his unique perspective on the American landscape.
February 2021: Rodney Hurst, Civil Rights Movement
Sixty years ago, on August 27, 1960, Rodney Hurst acted on the the words of his teacher and mentor, Rutledge H. Pearson: “Freedom is not free. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” At the young age of 16, Hurst was President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and Jacksonville was segregated. While peacefully sitting-in at a “white-only” lunch counter in downtown Jacksonville, he and others who were demonstrating for equality were brutally attacked in what is known as “Ax Handle Saturday”.
Ever since, he has been a man who has walked the walk for equality and civil rights for all people in America. His life has been dedicated to this goal. Rodney’s first book, It was never about a hot dog and a Coke, was his personal account of those 1960 sit-in demonstrations as well as what led up to them and transpired afterwards. His second book, Unless WE Tell It…It Never Gets Told, tells the stories of many of Jacksonville’s Black citizens and the important contributions they have made to the community, as well as a history of racism in America. A third book, co-authored with Dr. Rudy Jamison and published in September of last year, is titled, Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations about Racist and Identity Development.
February 2020: Greg Estevez, Edisto Island
Orange Park resident Greg Estevez wrote Edisto Island: The African American Story as he began studying his family’s deep roots in Edisto, SC. He felt a drive to tell the stories of African American life on this island, including his own family, the Hutchinsons. In fact, his family lived in the donated slave cabin that is a centerpiece of the slavery exhibit in the National Museum of African American History in Washington, DC.
But his book became even more than a family story, as he includes the rich history and heritage from slavery times to present day. Greg is the first African-American author from Edisto Island to write a non-fiction historical book about the island. He will also address Mandarin’s Edisto, a small African-American community on Old St. Augustine Road founded by previously enslaved people from South Carolina.
November 2019: Dr. John T. Foster
John T. Foster, Jr. and his wife Sarah Whitmer Foster are well-known for their books Beechers, Stowes and Yankee Strangers and Calling Yankees to Florida: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Forgotten Tourist Articles. They are known to be Stowe experts, having committed decades of work on the family.
Sadly, Sarah passed away in 2015, leaving John to carry on the research without her. And that he did. Just this summer he released his newest book, At the Dawn of Tourism in Florida: Abolitionists, Print Media and Images for Early Vacationers through the Florida Historical Society Press. This book is illustrated beautifully with images taken from a variety of sources, but all illustrating wild and free Florida beckoning tourists to come see for themselves.
August 2019: Lisa Rinaman, River UPRising
Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, will be giving a general overview and focus on one of the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s biggest advocacy issues: working to create a more resilient river. Hurricane Irma was a wake-up call to all of us. It showed us the importance of ensuring we are ready before the next big storm in order to protect our community and the St. Johns River.
St. Johns Riverkeeper would like to share critical information about how we can work together to become more resilient. River UPRising is a custom presentation based on the outcome of the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s River Rising Town Hall Series that stretched over the 2018 Hurricane Season. Working together, we can truly protect our communities and the St. Johns River while improving our quality of life, health and local economy.
May 2019: Ann Manry Kenyon, A Life in Art
Did you know that a nationally recognized portrait artist resides right here under the live oaks of old Mandarin? Tucked away at her home, steadily working her craft in her studio, Ann Manry Kenyon is an award-winning artist who has painted portraits for the likes of Congressman Ander Crenshaw, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, former Florida First Lady Columba Bush and, recently, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama. She works in oil, watercolor and pastels, is sought after as a teacher in these media and is a faculty member of the Portrait Society of America.
Ann’s work hangs in private collections and galleries around the country, including a wonderful portrait of Harriet Beecher Stowe that hangs proudly in the Mandarin Community Club, a historic structure that Mrs. Stowe helped build. She has also written a beautifully illustrated memoir about her fascinating life and her art, Memories, Method, and Mastery, which will be available for purchase at this event.
February 2019: Fort Mose Historical Society, The Fort Mose Story: A Story That Must Be Told
Did you know that a very important piece of African-American history is located a mere 20 miles south of Mandarin, just east of U.S. 1? The area of the site of Fort Mose, which was the northern defense of St. Augustine, is now a Florida State Park that offers picnic areas, a boardwalk, a visitor center, and a museum. At this lecture, four members of the Fort Mose Historical Society will present a program that tells you the whole story. They will present themselves in period dress and tell us about this very important story.
“Established in 1738 by Colonial Spanish Florida’s Governor Manuel Montiano, Fort Mose gave sanctuary to Africans challenging enslavement in the English Colony of Carolina. Approximately 100 Africans lived at Fort Mose, forming more than 20 households. Together they created a frontier community which drew on a range of African backgrounds blended with Spanish, Native American and English cultural traditions. Fort Mose was legally sanctioned by the Spanish Government making it the first free African settlement to legally exist in the United States.
More than a century before the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves from the British colonies were able to follow the original “Underground Railroad” which headed not to the north, but rather south, to the Spanish colony of Florida. There they were given their freedom, if they declared their allegiance to the King of Spain and joined the Catholic Church.” (www.fortmose.org)
November 2018: John Moseley, From the St. Johns to the Cape Fear: Severing the Lifeline of the Confederacy
In April 1864, the men of the 112th New Yok, 169th New York, and 13th Indiana Regiments could hardly prepare them for what lay ahead after the sinking of the Maple Leaf and the loss of their equipment. But for the men of these three regiments, they were soon to be a part of the bloody summer and fall campaigns in Virginia and finish the year in North Carolina. It was their time in North Carolina that would test them as they had never been tested. They would be a part of largest amphibious operation the US military would carry out until June 6, 1944 and would observe the largest naval bombardment of the American Civil War. It was the biggest event in US history at the time of its occurrence. Newspapers in the United Kingdom and Frances carried stories of the assault on Fort Fisher. For the men of both sides who survived the battles, it was more brutal than anything ever experienced. After the savage fighting was over, seventy-two soldiers, sailors, and marines would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. One of those Medal of Honor recipients, Private William Freeman of the 169th New York, might have materials still in the hold of the Maple Leaf.
Jacksonville native and Historic Sites Manager I, Fort Fisher State Historic Site, John Moseley, will give a lecture and visual presentation of the battle that sealed the fate of the Confederacy, aided in bringing an end to the war, and the Maple Leaf’s connection to Fort Fisher.
August 2018: Emily Lisska, Harriet Beecher Stowe: Mandarin’s Most Famous Resident
Harriet Beecher Stowe was arguably the most famous woman in the English-speaking world when she arrived in Mandarin, Florida. The year 2018 marks 150 years since author Harriet Beecher Stowe took up residence in her quirky Mandarin home, a home encompassed by live oaks and nestled in an orange grove in the village some 15 miles south of Jacksonville. She wintered there until 1884.
In Mandarin, Stowe found both the paradise and projects she so eagerly sought, including projects to build a school for the village’s children; to continue her literary career; to enter the citrus business; to promote Florida and much more. Emily Lisska’s presentation explores events in Mrs. Stowe’s life that infused her persona and led her to her Mandarin paradise. Also discussed is Mrs. Stowe’s North Florida life, including her many projects and her often overlooked literary achievements and disappointments during “the Mandarin years.”
May 2018: Kathy Stark, The Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks
Jacksonville artist Kathy Stark offers a unique and family-friendly exploration of the extensive system of natural parks in North Florida. Her book The Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks combines Stark’s lush and expansive watercolor paintings with sketches, notes, historical facts and maps to create a work that is a both a guide and handbook, as well as a tribute, to the great unspoiled stretches of the region. The Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks was published in partnership with the Timucuan Parks Foundation, with a portion of the proceeds supporting that nonprofit, which advocates for North Florida’s parks.
Kathy will give a very visual presentation using her park paintings and photos from her adventures in our parks, highlighting information most people don’t know about the various parks. She will touch on the history contained within them and will offer tidbits about how she as an artist goes about painting the large scale watercolors.
February 2018: Rita Reagan, Norman Studios
In honor of Black History Month, our February program will feature Norman Studios, one of the nation’s first film studios to produce films starring African-American characters in positive, non-stereotypical roles. Rita Reagan, Norman Studios Chair and Pro-Bono Executive Director, will show a documentary and discuss Jacksonville’s silent film history and its unique contribution to African-American cinema. Hollywood East: Florida’s Silent Film Legacy explores how the top motion picture producers of the day came to reside in Northeast Florida and why they left for the West Coast. Here in Jacksonville, it boils down to a bar scene-gone-wild, a mayoral candidate with an agenda, and a fiercely protective patent owner whose name you definitely know!
Hollywood East was produced by Nadia Ramoutar and Steph Borklund in collaboration with the Norman Studios, a nonprofit organization working to restore and reopen Jacksonville’s sole surviving silent film studio complex, which is still standing in the historic Old Arlington neighborhood. There, late filmmaker Richard Norman produced some of the nation’s earliest all-black-cast films during the 1910s and ’20s. Its unique place in cinema and civil rights history helped land the site a National Historic Landmark designation in 2016. Preservationists ultimately plan to give the site a big comeback as a world-class film, learning, research and tourism center.
November 2017: Paul Ghiotto, A Soldier’s Story
One hundred years ago, in 1917, Marion Joseph Losco presented himself to Postmaster Walter Jones, at the Mandarin Store and Post Office, to register for the draft of World War I. He continued to work on his father’s farm in the Mandarin area, having no idea how the war in Europe would impact him and his family. Like other healthy young men in Jacksonville and across the country, he met his duty and reported to the U.S. Army at Camp Jackson, S.C. He could not know that five months later he would be killed in action in France and would buried there for all time, never to see his beloved family and home again.
Marion’s mother, Dometilla, kept all of his letters and postcards as well as the notices and personal items she received from the Army after his death. Over 95 years later, these objects were donated to the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society by David Losco, hoping that the community could learn about the experiences of his uncle. One thing led to another and in 2016 Marion’s grandnephew, Paul Ghiotto, transcribed all of these letters and wrote a book based on the letters and other extensive research. At this lecture Paul will give a presentation about this amazing story of the only local resident who died in WWI. This event is being held a few days after Veterans Day in honor of Pvt. Marion Joseph Losco and all who have ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
August 2017: Scott Grant, SS Gulfamerica
Local speaker Scott Grant has become an expert on this very historic event. He will give a fascinating account of the sinking of the SS Gulfamerica tanker by the German U-Boat 123 right off the coast of Jacksonville Beach in 1942 while people on shore watched. This was the ship’s maiden and last voyage. He will have slides to show and accounts of the incidents from both the American and German perspectives, as the U-boat captain gave a thorough account and actually visited Jacksonville in his later years.
May 2017: Mark Woods, Lassoing the Sun
Mark is Metro columnist for the Florida Times–Union. In 2011, he won the Eugene C.Pulliam Fellowship, an award given to one writer in the country each year. The fellowship allowed him to take a sabbatical and spend one year working on a project about the future of the national parks. During that year, Mark lost his mother, turning the project and a subsequent book into something much more personal. Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks came out in June 2016, shortly before the National Park Service centennial. It was awarded the Gold Medal for general non-fiction in the 2016 Florida Book Awards. His book will be the focus of the lecture and it will be available at this event.
February 2017: Readers Theater, Stetson Kennedy
February’s Third Thursday Lecture is a very unique and informative presentation which is in honor of Black History Month. Sponsored by the Stetson Kennedy Foundation, talented actors from the Young Minds Building Success Readers Theater will bring individuals to life through dramatic and powerful storytelling. Those who will be portrayed were enslaved men and women who lived to tell their stories in their elderly age. These actors have listened to the tapes of these narratives and read them just as they were spoken.
The Readers Theater cast members will give life to the histories recorded in Stetson Kennedy’s books, The Florida Slave and Palmetto Country. Kennedy, a folklorist and Jacksonville author, served as director of Ethnic Studies for the Florida division of the Federal Writers’ Project. His book The Florida Slave is a collection of the oral histories of ex-slaves living in Florida, gathered by the Federal Writers Project during the 1930s. The collection relates the ex-slaves’ hardships under the system of slavery, the abuses of their civil and human rights in the aftermath of Reconstruction, and their strength to survive and make contributions to American culture. Palmetto Country relates African-American lore gathered by Kennedy, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, and folklorist Alan Lomax.
November 2016: Emily Lisska, Notable North Florida Women
Emily Lisska has put together some fascinating stories related to women who had a Mandarin connection. Emily will tell us that “Harriet Beecher Stowe was not the only notable North Florida female face who moved between Jacksonville and Mandarin with impact. Other women, if not physically, were emotionally tied to the two St. Johns River villages. Stowe, along with Jacksonville Founding Mother Nancy Hart, Commodore Rose, Eleanor Pritchard and Hester James McClendon are other names of interest in the early North Florida story.”
Emily Lisska, a Mandarin resident and Jacksonville native, is Executive Director of the Jacksonville Historical Society. She is a Past-President of the Mandarin Community Club and a member of the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society. Emily is also President-Elect of the Florida Historical Society.
May 2016: Joe Anderson, Mandarin Trees
There is no doubt that Mandarin residents LOVE their trees! Thanks to the Scenic and Historic Corridor ordinance introduced by former Council Member Mary Ann Southwell, the tree canopies along Mandarin, County Dock and Loretto Roads were protected in the heart of Mandarin. We are proud of the stately live oaks and dripping Spanish moss that define our community.
For this reason, May’s Third Thursday Lecture will be of great interest to everybody who desires to maintain this appearance. The lecture will be presented by Joe Anderson, a utility forester for JEA. Anderson’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the power of Jacksonville can be found in the canopy of trees. In this talk, Anderson will be branching out from the discussion of electrical, water, and sewer services to talk about trees.
February 2016: Sandra Parks, The Legacy of Stetson Kennedy
Stetson Kennedy is known world-wide as an author, human rights activist and folklorist. His first book, Palmetto Country, appeared in 1942 as a volume in the American Folkways Series edited by Erskine Caldwell. Of it, folklorist Alan Lomax has said, “I very much doubt that a better book about Florida folklife will ever be written.” Other books written by Kennedy include: The Klan Unmasked and Southern Exposure. According to the foundation’s website, “During the 1950s, Kennedy’s books, considered too incendiary to be published in the USA, were published in France by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and subsequently translated into other languages.” The Klan Unmasked chronicles Kennedy’s infiltration and exposure of the Ku Klux Klan at a time when it was experiencing a resurgence in America.
Stetson Kennedy was born in Jacksonville in 1916 and passed away in 2011.
For many years he lived in the Billard House, which was located at the site of the Billard Commemorative Park on Brady Road, and also at Beluthahatchee, his home in St. Johns County which is now a county park and is on the National Register of Literary Sites. The mission of the Stetson Kennedy Foundation is “to do all that it can to help carry forward mankind’s unending struggle for human rights in a free, peaceful, harmonious, democratic, just, humane, bounteous and joyful world, to nurture our cultural heritages, and to faithfully discharge our commitment of stewardship over Mother Earth and all her progeny.”
November 2015: Andrea Conover and Gus Bianchi, St. Johns River Alliance
The St. Johns River Alliance’s (SJRA) mission is to “preserve, protect, promote, restore and celebrate the St. Johns River as an American Heritage River.” One activity that helps fulfill that mission is that SJRA is responsible for promoting the St. Johns River as an official state paddling trail.
Speakers Andrea Conover, SJRA Program Manager, and Gus Bianchi, retired Navy and teacher, recently completed kayaking the entire river. Their presentation shows how the 310-mile north-flowing river changes from its headwaters in the marshes west of Vero Beach through the lakes and springs of the middle basin to the wide, developed and busy lower basin. Along the way, one finds old Florida fish camps, towns, restaurants, parks and springs. Their presentation includes photographs, maps and a list of access points to enjoy the river. It will open your eyes to all of the wonderful parks, interesting points and activities along the length of the St. Johns River, our most important natural resource.
August 2015: Mary Atwood, Historic Homes of Florida’s First Coast
Mary Atwood will discuss her new book Historic Homes of Florida’s First Coast and will display some of the stunning photos that were taken for the book, including two from the Webb Farmhouse located in Walter Jones Historical Park. This book is an essential read for anyone interested in visiting the wide variety of fascinating early residential structures which are open to the public in the North Florida area. With five geographic sections containing short chapters about each of the chronologically listed homes, this book provides readers with an easy to use guide for planning entertaining and educational day trips throughout the region. Mary brings to life the rich histories of these homes, sharing stories of the courage displayed by those who made significant contributions to the area now known as Florida’s First Coast. Books will be available for purchase and Mary will be happy to autograph them for you.
Mary Atwood’s fine art photography is included in numerous public, private and corporate collections in the United States and France. Her photographs have been exhibited in galleries, museums and public art venues, with a total of sixteen solo shows in the last two years alone. To date, her works have won more than fifty awards in local, regional and national juried exhibitions.
May 2015: Bob Nay, Major William Wirt Webb’s Life in Mandarin
Long-time Mandarin resident and new Mandarin Museum & Historical Society Board member Bob Nay will enlighten us with some very interesting information about Major Webb, an important figure in Mandarin’s history. Already passionate about Civil War history, Nay participated in a MMHS event with the Sons of Union Veterans last year. From that point on, he wanted to know more about this retired Union soldier who became a successful farmer in Mandarin. He began intensive research on Major Webb, his family, and his time in Mandarin. His research will eventually become a book which will be available at the museum’s gift shop. This lecture and the photos shared during this program will be a “sneak preview.”
November 2014: Ed Gamble, Jacksonville Politics Through the Eyes of a Cartoonist
Mandarin resident Ed Gamble will be telling stories about some politicians he has met, including President Reagan, Governor Graham and Governor Crist and showing some of his cartoons related to local politics and political figures. Gamble was an editorial cartoonist for The Florida Times-Union from 1980 until 2010. An award-winning cartoonist, he has been nationally syndicated and his cartoons have been published in newspapers and exhibits all over the United States and the world, including overseas in China and at the American Center in Karachi, Pakistan. They are permanently displayed at the Texas Depository in Dallas, Texas and at the Ford, Carter, Nixon, Reagan and Bush Presidential Libraries. He has won more than 50 national, regional and state awards for his cartoons, including four Wilbur Awards from the National Religion Communicators Council. The images that will be shown at this lecture are from the Special Collections at the Thomas G. Carpenter Library at University of North Florida, which houses over 2000 of Gamble’s cartoons on local and state events.
Ed Gamble is the author of “You Get Two For the Price of One” (Pelican 1996) with forwards written by Presidents Ford and Bush and a co-author of “A Cartoon History of the Reagan Years” (Regnery, 1988). Born and raised in Morristown, Tennessee, a small Appalachian town near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Ed graduated with a B.A. degree from The University of South Florida and attended post-graduate school at the University of Tennessee. He and his wife, Saundra have lived in Mandarin since 1981.
August 2014: George Winterling, Remembering Hurricane Dora
George Winterling is one of Mandarin’s most beloved and respected citizens. He made history in September 1964 when he was the only meteorologist to accurately predict that Hurricane Dora would come ashore in northeast Florida! Working at Channel 4 WJXT, he got it right and told the people in the area to get ready. Because of that forecast he became the person everyone depended on for their weather information.
Fifty years have passed and George is retired from WJXT and public speaking, but he was so kind as to allow us to come to his home and interview him about this event and how he knew where that storm was headed – way before the high tech tracking systems we depend on today. Following a screening of George’s video interview, we will hear remembrances from a few Mandarin residents who were here when the lights went out for two weeks: Sam Folds, Joe Walsh and others.