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Pearl City: Boca Raton's 'pioneering community for Black Floridians'

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Posted at 7:34 PM, Feb 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-21 08:38:51-05

BOCA RATON, Fla. — There’s a Black History tour in Boca Raton celebrating the contributions of blacks in agriculture that’s luring people from across the state and it’s even gotten the recognition of lawmakers in Tallahassee.

It’s tied to the settlers of the neighborhood Pearl City, a black neighborhood founded in 1915 that existed before Boca Raton and is now receiving a resurgence of interest.

This is the 10th year the Retirees, Seniors, and Friends travel club out of Miami has traveled to Palm Beach County for a lesson on history.

“It’s the only black community east of Dixie Highway,” said Ronald L. Brown, Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor. “I’m here to leave a legacy for our youth.”

“No one else should be telling our story the way we should be telling our story,” added Eric Brown, Macedonia AME Church pastor. “I think the richest area here is right here.”

Pearl City was designated a historic district in 2002 by the Boca Raton city council. The 15-acre parcel was originally advertised as “a brand new colored city” for blacks who migrated for work in agriculture.

“Blacks came from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and the Bahamas,” said Lori J. Durant, executive tour director of the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History. “Manual labor was highly important. Historically as former slaves, black people had the physical ability to do that manual labor.”

The tour includes the 101-year-old Ebenezer Baptist Church, Macedonia AME Church, and the Boca Raton Museum of Art which features an entire section dedicated to the residents of Pearl City.

Maren Hassinger’s exhibit, The Tree of Knowledge, constructed of newspapers pays homage to a banyan tree that still stands in the neighborhood. People who live there call it old and symbolic.

In recognition of the tour, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) in a letter called Pearl City “a pioneering community for Black Floridians” that must not be forgotten. He also expressed gratitude for the people who participated in the Feb. 20 tour extending gratitude for their work in “uplifting diverse narratives in South Florida.”

To book a tour, click here and here.