History was made when the John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach, FL was renamed the Dr. Von D. Mizell and Eula Johnson State Park in 2016. One of Florida’s most popular recreational sites became the first state park named for African Americans.
History is also preserved there. A marker notes the area that was once designated the “colored beach” during the segregation era of 1950s and early ‘60s – then an isolated plot of untended waterfront that was the only place where people of color could safely gather and create fond memories despite the shadow of discrimination.
Much has been written about Dr. Mizell, a feisty physician who was president of the local NAACP in the 1960s and battled racial injustice and the White medical establishment for years afterwards. Eula Johnson is heralded for being the first woman to head the NAACP who led demonstrations that successfully desegregated Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Her story, in her own words, is now a piece of recovered history in an interview recently unearthed in the historical archives.
I talked with her in her home in what is now the considered the Historic Sistrunk neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale near the end of her life for a slide show presentation on women that I co-produced in the 1980s. The project spotlighted women from a diversity of cultures, in a variety of professions and organizations, who made a significant difference in Broward County.
With the help of some volunteers, the fading slides and crackling audio from another era have been converted into a format where audiences today can hear her Race and Change experiences and her message to younger women that still resonates.
As we once again salute Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, and move into the celebration of Black History Month, Eula Johnson’s memories give me inspiration to keep on keeping on.