22 February 2018 Blogs

Exploring African American History in Delray Beach, Florida

Intro Copy

Gem of South Florida

Delray Beach, Florida, is a vibrant town with a rich ethnic, racial and cultural history. The early inhabitants of Delray Beach included Seminoles and Black Seminoles (free blacks and escaped slaves who allied themselves with the Seminoles). The 18th and 19th centuries saw the arrival of African American and Japanese agriculturalists and Bahamian fishermen, among others. Today, Delray Beach has one of the largest Haitian populations in the United States.

Spady Museum

Befitting of such a culturally diverse community, Delray Beach is home to the Spady Museum, the only museum and cultural center in Palm Beach County, Florida, dedicated to sharing African-American, Haitian- and Caribbean-American history and heritage of Florida. The museum is headquartered in the former home of the late Solomon D. Spady (1887-1967), one of the earliest African American principals assigned to Delray Beach. Mr. Spady came to the city in 1922 upon the recommendation of Booker T. Washington, one of the most influential African American educators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mr. Spady's involvement with the New Farmers of America youth organization brought him into contact with the agricultural chemist Dr. George Washington Carver. According to the museum tour guide, in addition to serving as principal, Mr. Spady taught woodshop and agriculture classes. His influential tenure lasted thirty-five years, and in 1998, Delray Beach nominated him for the Great Floridians 2000 award.

Spady Living Heritage Festival 

This past Saturday, February 17th, we attended the Spady Museum’s annual Spady Living Heritage Festival, a free event with live performances, food, and activities in celebration of Black History Month. This year's festival treated the audience to both an original theatrical performance by South Florida youth and a lively celebration of African drumming, dance and storytelling by Orisirisi African Folklore. The husband and wife drummers of Orisirisi, Don and Adetutu Harrell, encouraged the audience to join in call-and-response songs and even invited people to participate in drumming. The drummers are based out of Winter Garden, Florida, and Adetutu is from Nigeria originally. There were also several booths at the festival, including one that was selling homemade ice cream to raise money for a Girl's Technology and Leadership Academy. The academy, located at Spady Museum, teaches technology and leadership skills to girls ages nine to 17 in the Delray Beach community.


The WiseTribe--a community-driven, educational organization--set up a plant booth at the Spady Living Heritage Festival. Their #getdirtyindelray program is designed to bring awareness of food solutions and sustainability. The WiseTribe handed out containers filled with seedlings of sunflowers, collard greens or radishes. They were encouraging people to sign up and take home a plant. The container garden idea was designed and led by 8th graders.

S. D. Spady Elementary School

Another part of Solomon Spady's legacy of academic excellence is S.D. Spady Elementary school, a Montessori school that hosts pre-K through 5th grades. In the current school year (2017-2018), there are over 630 students enrolled at the school. Mr. Spady became the principal of the school in 1922, which was then called the Smith-Hughes Vocational School and renamed S.D. Spady Elementary in 1958. In an effort to integrate students across Palm Beach County, S.D. Spady Elementary became a magnet school in 1989. There has been a school on the site since 1895.

Related Links

Check out these links from the National Park Service and two of our ProQuest products:

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