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The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Theme: SegregationTheme: MigrationsTheme: ProtestTheme: CommunityTheme: Overcome?
Theme: Community

3.
Knights of Pythias lodge, Jacksonville, Florida, ca. 1919
Knights of Pythias lodge, Jacksonville, Florida, ca. 1919
Community and Self-Help
- A. I. Dixie and Samuel Dixie, interview, 1994, Behind the Veil Project, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University (PDF)


If the external pressures of racism brought African Americans together to form entire towns like Boley, Oklahoma (see #1: Community as Place), they also gave rise to small-scale communities like lodges and fraternal organizations. In the family histories Charles Johnson included in The Negro in Chicago, excerpted in Theme II: MIGRATIONS, we saw how prevalent membership in such organizations was among all strata of the black community. In this exchange between brothers Samuel and A. I. Dixie, we learn how such organizations functioned in Florida in the 1920s and '30s. The Knights of Pythias provided money for funerals, and the Order of Emancipated Americans sent people to sit at the bedsides of sick members. Since the nineteenth century, groups like them throughout the nation (see The Making of African American Identity, Vol. II) helped African Americans through difficult times. They also raised the ire of some whites, who resented black Americans seizing control over their own lives. The testimony of the Dixie brothers confirms the strength and value of these organizations, but it also raises questions about their durability as African Americans became more integrated into the mainstream. Note A. I. Dixie's reference to the role lodges played in helping African Americans flee the South. (3 pages.)


Discussion questions
  1. What were the principal sources of cohesion for the fraternal organizations?
  2. What did the fraternal organizations do for their members?
  3. What forces weakened fraternal organizations?

Framing Questions
  •  How has the African American community defined itself?
  •  How has the African American community functioned in the lives of its members?
  •  How have changing notions of African American identity affected definitions of African American community?

Printing
Interview: 3 pages
Supplemental Sites
Remembering Jim Crow, website accompanying the publication, from American Radio Works

Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South, from the Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University


*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.




Images: Knights of Pythias lodge and the home of W. W. Andrews, Jacksonville, Florida, ca. 1919, photograph (detail). State Library and Archives of Florida. Permission pending.




COMMUNITY
1. Community as Place   2. Community on Film
  3. Community & Self-Help   4. Image, Community 1939   5. Race as Community
6. Community & the Folk   7. Community & Memory
8. Community & Culture   9. Image, Community 1968   10. Global Community








TOOLBOX: The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Segregation | Migrations | Protest | Community | Overcome?


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