Friday, February 17, 2017

Bright Day in Belle Glade, Florida on Black History Month Tour hosted for African American Travel Club from Miami

On February 16, 2017, the 7th annual Black History Month Tour was hosted for 61 members of a prominent African American travel club named Retirees, Seniors & Friends. The group consists of African Americans from Dade County and Broward County, Florida who are professionals and had successful careers in education, government, medicine and the military; and as small business owners.   The 2017  Black History Month Tour traveled to Belle Glade, Florida in Palm Beach County.  Some of the members of this travel club are also descendants of black Bahamian families who were migratory workers in the Belle Glade area.  In addition to touring four cultural sites in Belle Glade, the travel club also patronized 2 black-owned restaurants in Palm Beach County, Florida.  The cultural tour was organized by the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History which is a non-profit 501c3 organization. 

Previous Black History Month tours for this culture club have traveled to Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Titusville, Sanford, Fort Pierce and Deerfield Beach.

The 2017 Black History Month tour visited the following: 

The Banyan Restaurant in Belle Glade, Florida for Breakfast

St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Belle Glade, Florida (established in 1928)

Mt. Zion AME Church in Belle Glade, Florida (established in 1928)

University of Florida/IFAS EVERGLADES Research Center in Belle Glade, Florida

Lawrence E. Wills Museum of the Glades in Belle Glade, Florida 

Donnie's Southern Restaurant in Delray Beach, Florida for Dinner 

The sugar cane industry in The Glades (Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee) in Palm Beach County, Florida hired migrant workers who were mostly black people from the Caribbean islands, Alabama and Georgia. This influx of migratory workers helped to establish a culturally-rich foundation for Belle Glade, Florida rooted in southern African American traditions.

Belle Glade’s population was less than 500 when the city was incorporated, five months before the devastating Hurricane of 1928. The city’s first fire chief was Lawrence E. Will, author of six histories on south Florida. In the 1930s black author Zora Neale Hurston lived in Belle Glade while writing Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston was befriended by Sarah Lee Creech, who created the first anatomically correct dolls for African Americans, modeled after Belle Glade.

According the City of Belle Glade, Florida website, Belle Glade is the largest city within the 2,862,00-acre subtropical Everglades in the heartland of Florida. Belle Glade was originally referred to as Hillsboro. The earliest known inhabitants of the Belle Glade area were the Calusa Indians. Their prehistoric habitation and burial mounds are located just west of Belle Glade in Chosen which is known by many as the "Indian Mound." These sites were excavated by the Smithsonian Institution during the early 1930's and later by archaeologists from the Florida State Museum in Gainesville. The Seminole Indians generally associated with this part of Florida are descendants of tribes from Georgia and Alabama who moved further and further south as white men pushed for expansion and development of new lands. It was the Seminole who gave the lake region the name of "Okeechobeeland," meaning Land of Big Water.

One of the colorful versions concerning the naming of the community tells that a blackboard was placed in a hotel lobby where suggestions could be written on the board. The suggestion receiving the most votes was that it should be called Belle Glade since the settlement was "the belle of the Glades. The Hillsboro Community Council was formed in 1919 and operated as the town's governing body until its incorporation on April 9, 1928.

This council was directly responsible for the location here of Everglades Experiment Station, a University of Florida agricultural research and experiment station. The center's name was recently changed to Agricultural Research and Education Center. On September 16, 1928, a storm more devastating than any other predecessor blew in from the coast and left monumental destruction. The force of the wind simply pushed all of the water from the northern portion of the lake and sent it surging madly through the area, like tipping a giant saucer full of water onto the earth. Approximately 2,500 people died in the hurricane and a statue today commemorates those who perished.

The loss of life caused by the storm brought to national prominence the need for Lake Okeechobee flood control. Following President Herbert Hoover's visit in 1929, federal and state governments agreed to undertake the construction of a levee. Today, the Hoover Dike includes approximately 85 miles of levee whose height varies from 34 feet upward. It is 22 feet above sea level and it is at least five feet above the highest point that the lake has ever reached.

Click here for The Sun Newspaper story about the trip

The Museum of Lifestyle& Fashion History (MLFH) is a non-profit 501c3 organization as designated by the IRS. MLFH was established in year 1999 in Palm Beach County, Florida. The Mission of MLFH is to offer educational programs, and history and retrospective anthropology exhibits and programs. In year 2004, MLFH premiered the Narrated Bus Tours of Historic Delray Beach, Florida. The tours have been hugely popular and rated the Most Unique Travel Gem by AAA Travel Home & Away Magazine. The Historic Tours have hosted more than 8,000 passengers. The mission of the tours is to showcase the historic cultural lifestyle, people, and places. In October 2011, MLFH premiered the Taste History Culinary Tours of Historic PalmBeach County. The purpose of the Taste History Culinary Tours is to infuse food history, food culture, foodways and food tastings into facts about the historic districts and pioneer people of West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth, and Lantana, Florida (Palm Beach County) along with highlighting art galleries, emerging artists and  arts districts, historic buildings and showcasing the contributions of early settlers. There are more than 40  partners for this program that include family-owned bakeries, cafes, juice bars, tea shops plus historic buildings and art shops.

For more information, call 561-638-8277 or email