“Know your history.” “Know our history.” Those are the words of Dorothy Inman-Johnson as she reflects on why her new book, “Tallahassee’s Black History Firsts: Post-Reconstruction Era” is a “reading must.”
Inman-Johnson, whose service to the city of Tallahassee stretches over almost 40 years is herself one of the book’s profiles of outstanding African Americans who have contributed to the progressive improvement of the city.
Park dedication:Tallahassee park dedication honors preservation work of Althemese Barnes
Entertainment:Things to do in Tallahassee: Crank up the PostModern Jukebox, get your pets blessed
During her years of community service, in 1986, Inman-Johnson became the first Black person elected to the City Commission. She served in the then rotating capacity of Mayor in 1989, and again in 1993. She was later City Manager of Midway.
Through her efforts, the property that is now Kleman Plaza was purchased by the city, and in 2020, that contribution was recognized with the plaza’s park being renamed in her honor. Inman-Johnson has written three other books dealing with African-American history and city management.
“And then during the pandemic, my friend, Clinita Ford, the wife of James Ford, the first Black mayor of Tallahassee, began to encourage me to write down some historical firsts of African Americans. Every year our Loved by Jesus Family Church would have a dinner recognizing Black people in Education, or Government, or Law and Medicine—and it seemed that it would be a good idea to do the same in the book Clinita was now urging me to write .
“And why? Because for both Blacks and whites, we only hear about the big names, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, people from the 50s and 60s. But history is being made every day,” Inman-Johnson said. “Every Black family should know about the people in this book…know our own history.”
She then refers to the CRT proposals to “erase history,” saying, “The purpose of any history is to capture and illuminate the struggles and the achievements of a people, not ever to make someone feel bad.”
Profiles were drawn from personal conversations with families, residents, researched data, and community memory.
Among the Tallahassee “Firsts” included are: Anita Davis, first Black female City Commissioner and head of the Tallahassee NAACP; Tommy Mitchell, President of FAMU; Jack Gant, first FSU faculty member; and Melvin Stith, Dean of FSU Business School and President of Syracuse University.
History:Anita Davis, first Black woman elected to the Leon County Commission, dies
Vintage Florida:Doug Alderson’s new book chronicles the history of Florida’s iconic vintage art
Inman-Johnson wonders at how proud Black families would be to know of the accomplishments of the people who went before them not that long ago.
Inman-Johnson says that following the trails of facts needed to complete the stories of the dozens of notables benefitted from help from friend and former fellow history teacher at Florida High, Mary Katherine May. “And no doubt, many have been left out,” says the author.
“I have personally learned so much about the Black history of Tallahassee in writing this book, but there’s more to know. And maybe,” she says with a smile, “it will be found in a Volume II.”
“Tallahassee’s Black History Firsts, Post-Reconstruction Era” ($43.95, hardcover) will have its launch at the LeRoy Collins Main Library, Room A, first floor, at 6 pm Wednesday, Oct. 5. The hardcover book can be found on Amazon. Call 850-294-1598 for more information.
Marina Brown can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Book launch for Dot Inman-Johnson’s “Tallahassee’s Black History Firsts, Post-Reconstruction Era”
When: 6 pm Wednesday, Oct. 5
Where: LeRoy Collins Public Library, Room A, first floor
Never miss a story: Subscribe to the Tallahassee Democrat using the link at the top of the page.