Monday, April 9, 2012

Labor of Love

When Maude Jackson learned the fire department planned to burn down her childhood school in a training exercise, she rallied others in the community to save it.

"That's our heritage," Ms. Jackson says.

Friendly, welcoming and strong to her core, you learn pretty quickly that Ms. Jackson is no stranger to rallying around a cause.

She speaks with pride about her relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom she marched with in St. Augustine.

A young college student set on marrying her high school sweetheart in the early 1960s, Ms. Jackson participated in sit-ins and marches until the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964.

"Our first date that we had set for getting married, I was locked up in jail," Ms. Jackson says. "What was so funny—my fiance had a top secret clearance in the Army, and here I was locked up in jail."

Ms. Jackson used that same determination to save the one-room schoolhouse from destruction and turn it into a museum celebrating the African-American hertiage of a small, rural community in the Hill Top area of Middleburg, Fl.

Museum visitors will find a host of artifacts, photos and newspaper articles chronicling the community's life from its birth in the late 1800s to present day.

The highlight of the museum, however, is the slight, lively curator who delights in passing down the history of this rural community from generation to generation.

Through Ms. Jackson, visitors will learn how the community grew up around Clay County's turpentine industry in the early 1900s, how women performed the day-to-day chores during the early years and, most importantly, how you can make old-fashioned ice cream with shaved ice, canned milk and vanilla flavoring.

Tours of the musuem are available by appointment only, but it is worth the effort to spend an hour of your time sampling a slice of the rural South through this charming lady's colorful tales.

Black Heritage Museum
Hunter-Douglas Park
4274 Longmire Ave., Middleburg