Tuesday, February 16, 2010

L. B. Brown: Slave to Community Builder

This is the L.B. Brown House, built in 1892 by Lawrence Bernard Brown (1856-1941).

L.B. Brown was born into slavery in 1856 in Wacahoota, Florida, near Gainesville. After the Civil War and the end of slavery his family homesteaded a 40-acre farm. When L.B. was older he moved to Deland, Florida where he built nine rental houses. After his father died in 1885, L.B. and his mother moved to Bartow, Florida where he built the two-story house pictured above along with many rental houses (estimated to well over 50 houses). Pictured below is one of the rental houses built by Mr. Brown.

Built around 1910-1912
Mr. Brown was not only a master carpenter who built houses, he also sold Bibles, silvered mirrors, repaired furniture, built cabinets and made umbrellas. A 1912 Jacksonville newspaper described him as the leading capitalist and the largest land owner in Bartow "among the gentlemen of color".

He and his third wife, Anna Belle reared eleven children in their two-story house. One of their sons is still alive today and lives in New York. How many people still living today can claim that their father was born a slave...not many. This still surviving son was born when L.B. was 72 years old. I do not know the age difference between L.B. and Anna.

At the time of his death in 1941, L.B. Brown left a considerable amount of cash and real estate to his family.

Although he was born a slave, he refused to let that circumstance limit his possibilities in life. His headstone reads, "From slavery to community builder". The L.B. Brown story should serve as an inspiration to everyone.

Since 2000, there has been an annual L.B. Brown Heritage Festival in Bartow, Florida. The Colonel, DSIL and I attended it this year. Dr. Canter Brown (no relation to L.B. Brown) was a guest speaker at this year's festival. Dr. Brown has written many Florida history books and The Colonel has a couple of them. He took one to the festival to have Dr. Brown sign it.

Dr. Brown spoke of Florida history, especially the history of the county and city where the L.B. Brown House is located. We spoke with him before and after his speech; he was very friendly.

After we listened to Dr. Brown we had some lunch. There were many vendors to choose from. The Colonel and DSIL had fried shrimp and I had curry chicken with beans and rice. When lunch was over we listened to music and watched some dancers on the stage. The little girls were cute as they danced.

We then took a tour of the house.

The Colonel, DSIL and I enjoyed our visit to the L.B. Brown Heritage Festival. We may have to make it an annual trip.

"From slave to community builder"...it is amazing what the human spirit can accomplish when it is free from oppression of any kind.

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