5 Lost Colleges & Universities of the Inner City

October 22, 2015 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Many would like to see an urban university grow up in the heart of the city. Here's five schools that got away.

4. Florida Baptist Academy

The Florida Baptist Academy was located in the Eastside between Harrison and Franklin Streets in 1903.

In 1892, the Florida Baptist Academy was established by Reverend Matthew Gilbert, Reverend J.T. Brown, and Sarah Ann Blocker. The school was originally located in the Eastside on Cleveland Street (E 6th Street) between Harrison and Franklin Streets.

The purpose of the institution was to espouse industrial education, domestic arts, teacher education, agricultural education, mechanical education, and religious training. Here, brothers James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson, wrote "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" in 1900. John Rosamond Johnson was a noted faculty member of the school, recruited by college President Nathan White Collier.

After her mother's death in 1904, Zora Neale Hurston's father remarried and sent her to Jacksonville to attend the school. Eventually, she was expelled after her father stopped paying her tuition. Nevertheless, she went on in life to become a internationally known folklorist, anthropologist, author, and key figure of the Harlem Renaissance. While in Jacksonville, Florida Baptist Academy received financial support from the Rockefeller General Education Board, Baptist organizations, the Bethany Association, and the American Home Mission Society.

In 1918, the Florida Baptist Academy relocated the Old Homes Plantation in St. Augustine. Prior to the Civil War, the site was known as one of the largest slave plantations in the state. The school also changed its name to the Florida Normal and Industrial Institute. In 1941, the school merged with Live Oak's Florida Baptist Institute, changing from a junior college into a four-year liberal arts. Here, Zora Neale Hurston spent some time as a part-time professor, while completing her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road.

1963 brought another name change--this time, Florida Memorial College. They would relocate to a 44-acre site in Northwest Miami 5 years later. In 2006, Florida Memorial College changed its name to Florida Memorial University. With an enrollment of 1,800, today it remains a private, coeducational university that is 1 of 39 member institutions of the United Negro College Fund. The school is ranked 9th in the country for graduating African America teachers. Back in Jacksonville, the original campus location is the site of Matthew Gilbert Middle School.

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