Eartha M. M White
Born to a slave mother in 1876 in Jacksonville Florida, Eartha wouldsoon be adopted by Clara English White and her husband. Eartha’smother dies soon after giving birth, and the only chance Eartha hadto survive was the adoption by Clara White. At the age of five,Clara’s husband died, and Eartha was left in the care of ClaraWhite. Despite these challenges at an early age, no one would havethought that she would grow up to become a successful businesswoman,humanitarian, educationist, and philanthropist. Eartha Mary would getthe opportunity to attend Stanton School in Jacksonville and laterMadam Hall Beauty School in New York. Notably, Eartha delved intomusic after studying at Madame Thurber’s National Conservatory ofMusic (Bateman 33). She traveled to Europe where he performed musicand would only return to Florida at the age of twenty. In Florida,she continued her education at Florida Baptist Academy where shegraduated with a degree in education. It is essential to note thatthe relationship between Eartha and her mother, Clara White wasadmirable and rewarding. She received all the necessary support fromher during her studies and also in her future philanthropic andhumanitarian activities.
Thesis: Eartha Mary Magdalene White and her mother Clara Whiteengaged in numerous humanitarian activities where they helped variousdisadvantaged people, and some of their philanthropic projects suchas Clara white mission still exist today. However, despite theseachievements, the two iconic women never received enough credit fortheir services to humanity.
The history regarding Mary’s biological father has been a bigsecret for her. Notably, when she was adopted by Clara, she did notknow the true identity of her parents. However, as she grew old, shediscovered that her mother was a slave and her father was a white manfrom a famous family. It is essential to note that the whites werenot allowed to have sexual affairs or love affairs with the blacks.The reason why the Whites kept the identity of Mary’s biologicalfather a secret was due to the fact that he came from the famousStockton bloodline in Jacksonville Florida (Smith 53). Being aneducationist, Eartha was able to gather sufficient informationregarding her biological father. Many writers in Jacksonville fearedto publish the story of the whites, and most the books that theysought to release were shut down to safeguard the secret. Further, itis important to note that Jacksonville Florida was rife with racismand oppression against the black community. Slavery was stillhappening, and the 1901 fire was meant to burn most of the evidencethat would have exposed the evils and the secrets of the small city.
Eartha made numerous achievements in her life, and it is evidentthat she and her mother are not appreciated enough by the Floridianpeople. Immediately after her graduation with an education degree,Eartha demonstrated her willingness to have an equal society and tohelp the less privileged in her community. Notably, the blackAmericans suffered discrimination and stereotyping in the 1800s, andpeople like Eartha and Clara were instrumental in helping themachieve their dreams (Smith 66). In 1898, Eartha opened the firstpublic school for black children in Bayard, Florida. Many blackchildren could not access education in the schools that weredominated by white children and where they were discriminated becauseof the color of the skin (Smith 258). Notably, Eartha and Claradonated the land for the construction of the School, and they alsoprovided all the building materials. This was a great act ofgenerosity and kindness from these two great women. Eartha wouldcontinue to teach in that school for sixteen years even as she taughtin the Stanton School in Jacksonville. She would donate almost allher salary towards the running of the public school for blackchildren. It is easy to deduce from this simple act that Eartha andClara were women who wanted to bring equality amongst all the peopleregardless of their race or nationality.
Owing to her many businesses, it is estimated that Eartha was amillionaire. However, it is essential to note that most of her incomewent towards her various philanthropic and humanitarian activities.For example, she built the Oakland Park in Jacksonville, which wasthe only first park for the black people. Usually, Mary would engagein politics in order to fight for the rights of all the people. It isunimaginable to believe that she made all this progress with the JimCrow laws in place. It is essential to note that there were separateentries in restaurants for blacks, separate bathrooms, and segregatedwater fountains. Any attempts to bring dignity to the black communitywere met with enormous resistance from the whites (Smith 101). Earthacampaigned relentlessly for the equal rights through protests.Research has indicated that she sometimes protested in front of veryinfluential people in America at the time such as Booker Washingtonand Philip Randolph. Further, she could approach the Jacksonvillemayor Hans Tanzler bravery and ask for permits for the establishmentof the various projects such as the park and the school. In fact, themayor once described her as irrepressible and undeniable in a FloridaTimes-Union Article (Wright 121). This is a clear demonstration thatshe was fearless and determined to bring dignity to all the blackpeople in Florida and indeed across the United States. There is nodoubt that Mary and her mother Clara are not appreciated enough forthe efforts they made and the sacrifices they made to ensure theblack community in Florida enjoyed the same privileges as the whites.
In collaboration with her mother, Mary would establish a Boy’sImprovement Club. The primary purpose of this club was to educate theyoung black boys about the dangers of engaging in criminalactivities. Mary was concerned about the huge number of young boyswho were being incarcerated due to minor crimes. This club wascoupled with the prison mission, which sought to help the releasedinmates to rejoin society. Notably, numerous black people were beingreleased from prison, and it was extremely hard for them to reunitewith the community and the family members (Smith 365). Her prisonmission made sure that there were procedures through which thereleased inmates were integrated into the society. Eartha’sphilanthropic and humanitarian projects seem countless. Sheestablished an orphanage for black children where many children wholost their parents to treatable ailments such as tuberculosis wouldget refuge. This orphanage was coupled with an adoption agency. It isworth noting that she was an adopted child and she believed that evenadopted children could become great citizens in future.
Eartha Mary White believed in women empowerment. This drove her tostart a home for unwed mothers in Florida. This helped many parentswho would not afford quality housing through giving them theopportunity to earn some income without worrying over housing.Equally, this iconic humanitarian and philanthropist established anursery school for the children of working mothers in Jacksonville,Florida (Smith 75). This is a clear demonstration that she wasconcerned over the fate of unmarried women who needed to supporttheir children (Bateman 98). There is no doubt that there not manypeople, especially black Americans, during her time that would havebeen brave enough to run many such projects while facing prejudiceand discrimination from the whites, and resistance from thegovernment. There as numerous people across the United States who arebeneficiaries of the many humanitarian projects that were started andrun by Mary. The success of these projects was not a smallachievement, and she is among the few women in history who deservenot only to be appreciated but celebrated.
Despite being a black woman during the Jim Crow laws, Mary surpassedinsurmountable odds to become a successful businesswoman. Sheestablished and successfully run a steam dry laundry, a taxi company,employment, and housecleaning bureau, and a dry goods store (Gilmore77). Usually, it takes keen business skills and knowledge to run manysuch enterprises. However, Mary runs them successfully, and it isestimated that she amassed assets worth approximately $1 million.Unfortunately, she died a poor old woman after donating all herfinances to the humanitarian projects she was running. Even thoughshe died poor, her achievements in helping other people leadcomfortable lives are worthier than personal wealth.
One of her greatest achievement with her mother Clara was the ClaraWhite Mission in 1904. The role of the mission was to feed the hungryand homeless people in Jacksonville, Florida. It is essential to notethat the tradition of feeding the hungry run the family since theyused to feed their hungry neighbors in the 1880s. After the death ofher mother in 1920, Mary expanded the services of the mission andrelocated to a new building in honor of her later mother. To date,the mission feeds over 10000 people in Florida, and it is the biggestemployer of blacks in Jacksonville (Smith 433). Her tremendousachievement in this project earned her a visit from first ladyEleanor Roosevelt who visited the mission. To have received suchrecognition from the White House, it is evident that the mission wasone of a kind and its success in feeding the poor, homeless, andhungry was unmatched.
Her achievements in life accorded her recognition from famous andinfluential people in the United States. She was awarded an honorarydoctor of law degree from Edward Waters College. She was equallyawarded an honorary degree in humanities from Florida MemorialInstitute (Bateman 56). Governor Reuben of Florida has also awardedher the Florida’s Outstanding Senior Citizen award at age 95. It isalso essential to note that Mary White was awarded by President Nixonin 1971 with an appointment to the President’s National Center forVoluntary Action. The achievements that Eartha and her mother made inthe humanitarian sector were sufficient to award her many accolades.
While concluding, Eartha Mary Magdalene White was an iconic figurein the history Florida’s equality struggles. She established andsuccessfully run many projects that were aimed at catering for theneeds of the less privileged, the homeless and the hungry. Herprimary concern was the fate of the black community and the unmarriedwomen. She managed her businesses and humanitarian activities at atime when racial discrimination was rife. Although Mary has receivedmany accolades from famous people and institutions across the UnitedStates, more would have been done to celebrate her.
Bateman, Grace M. Grace Reminiscences: 40 Years with Clara WhiteMission, Inc. Clara White Mission, 1995. Print.
Gilmore, Tim. In Search of Eartha White, Storehouse for thePeople. Tim Gilmore, 2014. Print.
Smith, Jessie C. Notable Black American Women: Book Ii.Detroit: Gale Research, 2012. Print.
Wright, E. Lynne. Remarkable Florida Women. Morris BookPublishing, 2010. Print.
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