DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
A documentary is in the works that explores Daytona Beach’s African-American community. The film will include a community forum that took place on Dec. 12 featuring longtime Daytona Beach educators, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and a local historian.
The project is the brainchild of longtime Daytona Beach resident Percy Williamson, who is presenting the documentary in partnership with Daytona State College WDSC TV 15. Williamson also is director of Leisure Services for the City of Daytona Beach.
Williamson said the documentary was inspired by the 1943 Gordon Parks photo exhibit titled “Midway, A Portrait of a Daytona Beach Neighborhood, 1943.’’ The exhibit is currently on display at the Yvonne Scarlet-Golden Cultural and Educational Center, 1000 Vine Street. The exhibit, which began on Sept. 11, ends Jan. 15.
The images are on loan from the permanent collection of the Southeast Museum of Photography on the campus of Daytona State College.
On Dec. 12, Williamson moderated a live taping of the community forum titled “Beyond Midway – The Evolution of An African American Neighborhood.’’ During the forum, panelists discussed various issues relating to Midway, including the culture, education, achievements and challenges.
The proposed airing of the documentary is February 2016 on WDSC TV 15. The filming included a live studio audience who contributed questions to the panel.
Panelists included Attorney Charles W. Cherry III, Esq., publisher of the Daytona Times and Florida Courier; James Daniels, a retired insurance executive; Betsey Hardeman, a retired school superintendent; Dr. Len Lempel, a retired history professor at Bethune-Cookman University and Daytona State College; Harold V. Lucas Jr., a retired school administrator; and Warren Trager, a local business owner and entrepreneur.
“The first-hand historical information exchanged by panelist Harold V. Lucas Jr. and James Daniels concerning the impact of the United States Government Program Urban Renewal was riveting and priceless.”
Program sponsors were VITAS Healthcare, the F.R.E.S.H. Book Festival and the Daytona Times/Florida Courier.
According to a commentary written by Lempel, Midway became the center of Daytona’s African-American middle class during the first half of the 20th century. By 1924, its main business district stretched for several blocks along Second Avenue, and benefited from a captive clientele – the byproduct of rigid segregation.
Besides Bethune-Cookman, Midway’s main thoroughfare contained three physicians, one dentist, two churches and an assortment of 41 small businesses. Because Blacks were denied service in White eateries, Black restaurants had become especially prominent along Second Avenue; nine of them operated in 1924,” Lempel stated.
“In 1944, Second Avenue contained approximately the same number of Black-owned businesses, including nine restaurants. There were some new additions, however; a vocational school joined Bethune-Cookman College, as did a “colored” chapter of the American Red Cross, a Black Knights of Pythias Hall, an additional church, and a terminal for the all-Black municipal bus line,” he noted.
“Despite Midway’s small but thriving middle class, most Blacks during the 1920s and 1930s held menial jobs in the city’s hotels and private residences, or worked as laborers in the lumber yards, railroad and turpentine camps, and on the farms and in the citrus orchards that dotted the area.’’