Celebrate Black History Month
Delray Beach Pioneers: A look at notable African Americans in Delray Beach
Black history month is celebrated in February nation-wide. During the month of February, we will be highlighting inspiring African American pioneers who've helped shape the history of Delray Beach. We will continue to include additional facts. stories and photos to this page, so check back soon. Let's celebrate!
Solomon D. Spady
Solomon D. Spady was a principal/teacher that came to Delray Beach upon the recommendation of George Washington Carver and became one of the most influential African Americans in Delray Beach. Mr. Spady came to Delray Beach to accept the teaching position which also carried the responsibility of principal at the County training school formerly named Delray Colored number 4, the first school made in Delray Beach. The school had an enrollment of 100 children between grade 1 through 8. Under his tutelage, the student body grew to 336, grades 1 thru 10 in 1934, and in 1939 the first 12th grade high school graduation was held. His community work included an active member of Mt. Olive Baptist Church, the first church built in Delray Beach by African Americans in 1896. He served as church clerk for more than 20 years, Sunday school teacher, Baptist youth teacher and group leader of church rallies. When asked about his philosophy Mr. Spady said “My philosophy is simple – God, country and the people first; self last. Face your daily problems prayerfully; keeping in mind that the highest service to God and to yourself is to serve your fellowman.” He passed away on November 25, 1967 at the age of 82. His legacy lives on.
Mary Cohen was a trained midwife that settled in Delray Beach in 1896. She helped people of all races in the birthing process. She was affectionately called “Auntie” Cohen and “Ma” Cohen by members of the community.
Susan Williams arrived in Delray Beach in 1898 from the Bahamas. She was a general nurse practitioner and a trained midwife. She handled the medical needs for people of all races in Delray Beach. The Susan Williams house was moved next to the Spady museum so help preserve and raise awareness of her impact on the community.
Charles & Francenia Patrick
Charles & Francenia Patrick built the first black-owned hotel in Delray Beach. The hotel was built during the time of segregation and provided African Americans with the opportunity to rent a room. It was the only black hotel between Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale and provided a place to stay for seasonal workers. The building now serves as an apartment complex for senior citizens.
Charles Spencer Pompey
Mr. Pompey was a Civil rights activist, teacher, and principal that left a lasting impression on Delray Beach and it's education system. Pompey graduated from Bethune-Cookman and moved to Delray in 1939 to begin his career as a teacher. While teaching, he helped found the Palm Beach teachers association. And after noticing the pay discrepancy between black and white teachers with seniority he was a part of a class action lawsuit in the federal courts to get equal pay. The NAACP sent Thurgood Marshall to represent the teachers, and he won the case guaranteeing them equal pay. Mr. Pompey then went on to become president of the local NAACP, president of the teacher’s association, a member of the board of directors at the Delray Beach Historical Society, and honorary director of the palm beach junior college association. His commitment to children didn’t stop in the classroom in 1950 Mr. Pompey went on to set up the city’s first recreational program for black students. To honor his commitment to the city of Delray Beach in 1978 the city bought land and turned it into a recreational center named after Mr. Pompey that is still around today.
Vera Farrington founded the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach, which is dedicated to discovering, collecting and sharing the African American history and heritage of Palm Beach County. Farrington grew up in Delray Beach and was even a student of Mr. Pompey while he was a teacher at Carver High School. She worked as an educator with more than 30 years as a public school teacher and as the assistant principal at Boca Raton High School. After retiring from the school system, Farrington served as a member of the Delray Beach Historic Preservation Board. While working with records at the Delray Beach Historical Society, she noticed there was a lack of information on African American history. As she came upon additional records of African Americans in Delray Beach, Farrington and other community leaders decided to form Expanding and Preserving Our Cultural Heritage, Inc. (EPOCH), a non-profit organization that does business as the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum. EPOCH worked to save the house of Solomon D. Spady from being demolished and renovated it to serve as a museum to house information on African American history in Delray Beach. Vera Farrington has passed the torch on to her daughter Charlene Farrington who serves as the Museum’s Executive Director.
George Green was the first African American to run for office in Delray Beach. George Green was born in 1877 in Midway, Florida and moved to South Florida with the promise of cheap and plentiful land. When Delray Beach was incorporated in 1911, George Green ran for the position of alderman. He missed making the cut by only a few votes. But he was a trailblazer leading the path for other African Americans to take office in Delray Beach.
Emma Reynolds was the first black female real estate agent in Delray Beach. Emma Reynolds was involved in many real estate deals in Delray Beach during the 1920s.
- Spady Cultural Heritage Museum
- Delray Beach historical society
- Historic Palm Beach
- Palm Beach County History
- Sun Sentinel