MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — Since 1988, the Martin County Genealogical Society has preserved historical records on the Treasure Coast from family lineage to community initiatives. But this month they begin one of their hardest projects — tracing Black heritage.
Retired Martin County Sheriff’s Office captain Lloyd Jones spends many retirement hours still hunting.
”There’s a lot of history about Black people that was undocumented,” Jones said. “I’m going to write a different story. I’m going to write a story about the truth.”
He’s referencing a random 412 page book with only two dozen pages that focus on Black contributions to the county. And he calls it unsettling.
”Why and how did this happen?” Lloyd asks.
And he’s also grown tired of stories about Blacks migrating from north Florida, Georgia and the Caribbean for a life in agriculture and hard labor.
”They didn’t come here to work for people — they came here to own land like everybody else and to farm like everybody else,” Lloyd said.
It’s narratives he’s slowly reversing on one end and uncovering on the other when researching the people buried in Black cemeteries in the Treasure Coast. And in response he founded the Martin County Black Heritage Initiatives or “MAC-B” last year, and made a friend in the process.
“We’re going to go through historical census records, the burial records and the funeral homes,” said Hartford Inlow, Martin County Genealogical Society (MCGS) member. “We’re going to get a picture as best as we can of who was here, what were they doing here, how long had they been here and seeing if we can start working back.”
Inlow befriended Jones five years ago and is now helping him reverse decades of half-truths and voids.
“I think there’s a lot of assumptions,” Inlow said.
”And we’re going to step away from that,” Jones added. “We’re going to step into time, back into history and we’re going to reveal the truth why people came here.”
And the public is encouraged to take interest. On Friday, Nov. 19 the Martin County Black Heritage Initiatives is officially partnering with the Martin County Genealogical Society to announce and begin the documentation process.
”We are just maybe one or two or maybe three pieces to his overall concept,” said Lisa Tompson, Martin County Genealogical Society president. “So, our group is making an effort—an active effort.”
The public can learn more about the project in person at the Stuart Library from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. or watch it via Zoom.
Jones wants their findings added to the shelves in the region’s libraries, schools and elsewhere.
”There’s not enough Black history. There’s not enough history that really encompasses the whole context of our historical experience,” Tompson said. “Definitely the high school — and possibly the middle school as well. But certainly the high schools need to have that.”
A captain on a new assignment and educating the misinformed.
“Black people for years have been depicted as servants in Martin County — and (roles of) servitude. That is continuing today,” Jones said. “People believe Blacks have to be in a domestic role in order to make a living and that history and perception is a fallacy. This caste system mindset hasn’t benefited Black people at all in Martin County.”