In the 1960s Percy Golden traveled from his home in Atlantic Beach to the old Jacksonville Beach Elementary, the segregated school for Black students at the Beaches. He and other students met recently in the old schoolhouse, which was saved from demolition and turned into a museum, the Rhoda L. Martin Cultural Heritage Center.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH —  Although there’s an understated elegance to its brick construction and long windows, the old schoolhouse is nothing fancy: a simple rectangle that once held four classrooms.

With links to a woman born into slavery who went on to teach children in her kitchen, it became known by several names: School #144, Jacksonville Beach Colored School and Jacksonville Beach Elementary. 

For generations of Black residents at the Beaches, it became a distinct mark of pride, a centerpiece and social center for the community — as well as a refuge during Hurricane Dora in 1964.

In the days before desegregation, kids came from the streets around the school, a Black neighborhood known as the Hill, as well as from Atlantic Beach and Mayport. It even drew some country kids from the San Pablo area across the Ditch.