The Durkeeville community was founded in the 1930s, when African Americans were barred from living in many parts of the city. This was during the period of mandatory separation of the races and legal discrimination. The people who came together to create Durkeeville were middle class and working class individuals. Some were doctors, lawyers, educators and business people. Others were ordinary laborers. They created a neighborhood that sheltered and nurtured many during this challenging time.
Unfortunately and ironically the elimination of legal discrimination resulted in the decline of the community. This was due to the relocation of many prominent residents and the flight of much commercial activity from the area.
By the 1980s Durkeeville struggled with urban blight, poverty and crime associated inner city neighbor-hoods. A number of the remaining long-term residents formed the Durkeeville Historical Society and collaborated with city officials to revitalize this historic section of Jacksonville. Decaying structures were replaced, and services and resources were created.
One major resource was the Durkeeville Historical Center. The center contained exhibits and other materials that tell the story of Durkeeville, information about African Americans in Jacksonville and North Florida, as well as the African American experience generally.The center was located at the Oaks of Durkeeville until the summer of 2005, when this space was vacated to make room for the expanding day care center of the housing complex.
Because of the valuable service the Durkeeville Historical Society has contributed to the community, the Jacksonville Housing Authority has constructed a new facility, the Durkeeville and Northwest Jacksonville Historical and Cultural Center.
Currently, the members of the Historical Society want to enhance the new center by refurbishing the existing exhibits, adding new displays, and offering programs and services for the residents of Durkeeville, the people of Jacksonville and visitors to the city.
The goal of the Historical Society is to help educate about the historic African American community. Durkeeville has outstanding citizens from all walks of life, including educators, sports figures, musicians, actors, artists, judges, attorneys, doctors, nurses, and professional and business people, as well as the many ordinary hardworking men and women.
Our goal is to earn revenue to hire staff to help provide services for the benefit and education of the community. We want to offer more tours to individuals, schools groups, and the many visitors to the center. Among the services, we want to include are genealogy work-shops to assist people in tracing family histories and story telling by the elders.