Theme: "Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced"
Each year, March is designated Women’s History Month by Presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history. President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation in 1980 as a week. In 1987, Congress passed a law designating March as “Women’s History Month.” Since that time, each president has issued an annual proclamation designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” The Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum staff joins in the celebration of the vital role of women in American history.
Mary S. Harrell
Founder, Author, Educator, Community Activist, Volunteer
Today, we celebrate Mary S. Harrell – the founder of The Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum – which is a gem of local history. She was a leader in addressing the need for local Black history to be collected, preserved and shared. After 32 years of teaching in the Volusia County Schools, Mary, along with a dedicated committee, worked diligently to amass an impressive collection of local history within the walls of the Museum. Mary served as a member of many community organizations, including the founder of the Black Heritage Festival, member of the Harris House, Atlantic Center for the Arts, AAUW (American Association of University Women), Child Care Settlement, Habitat for Humanity, West Side Retirees, Friends of the Brannon Library, Allen Chapel AME Church, and others. Mary was a columnist writer for the Daytona Beach News Journal and an author. Above all, she was an inspiration and role model for many young women in the community. Few individuals have had a greater or more lasting impact on a community then Mary S. Harrell. Her legacy will live on in the many young people's lives she touched.
March Black History Facts
1. March 1, 1875: - Congress passed a Civil Rights Bill which banned discrimination in places of public accommodation. The Supreme Court overturned the Bill in 1883.
2. March 6, 1957: John Lee became the first black commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy assigned to duty. (see first picture)
3. March 11-12, 1895:1895 New Orleans dockworkers massacre was an attack against black, non-union dockworkers by unionized white workers. The mob killed 6 black workers. (see second picture)
4. March 14, 1917:First training camp for colored officers was established by the U.S. Army in Des Moines, Iowa.
5. March 21, 1986: Debi Thomas became the first African American woman to win the World Figure Skating Championship. (see third picture)
Celebrating Women Tap Roots of Volusia County
Tap Roots were people born in the area or had lived in the area for many years. According to Jimmy Harrell, a retired Vocational Agriculture teacher for many years, defined tap roots as those that allowed trees to stand tall and strong and weather many storms of life. They are the ones who had a hand in molding the West Side into the form it is today.
Lydia Ballard Pettis
Lydia Pettis was the Founder of Forgotten Christmas Tree which provided Christmas cheer to underprivileged families and she was Founder of the Christian Women's Alliance. Mrs. Pettis was not only a pillar of good for the community, but she was also very dedicated to working for her church.
The President of United States Richard Nixon, awarded Mrs. Pettis a Commendation for her service and also named the Pettis Park in her honor in 1973.
Oretha Wyche Bell
Oretha Bell served as Chisolm High's only Librarian for over 30 years. She had a love for politics and was a true advocate of the democratic process. With that love came a passion for her "New Smyrna Beach" where she served as a City Commissioner and Vice Mayor.
She found time to make a difference by serving on the following boards: The Oretha Wyche Bell - Boys and Girls Club of Volusia County, Smyrna West Assisted Living Facility, and The Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum.
Nancy Veronica Cummings
Nancy Cummings was a pioneer of Oak Hill. In 1927, she decided to visit the Volusia County Superintendent's office for an interview since they were in need of a teacher. She was the most qualified candidate and was awarded the job.
Since Nancy was such an influential leader in Oak Hill, a park was named after her (Nancy Cummings Park) in Oak Hill.
Women's History Month Icons Who Are Leaving a Mark In History
Made history by becoming the first Black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for her work in ABC's: How to Get Away With Murder.
Served as the First Black First Lady of The United States from 2009 - 2017. She is also the best selling author of "Becoming" and a Podcaster.
Became the first African American to win the title of Individual All-Around Champion in artistic gymnastics. She's also the first Black woman to earn gold in both the individual all around and team competitions at the Olympic games.
Markle became engaged to Prince Harry in 2017, making her the first Black and White American Duchess of Sussex. She is also a former actress and founded Archwell, an organization that acts as a production and audio company, and a charitable foundation.
Becoming the first woman and first Black and Asian American to hold the title of Vice President-elect. She's also the first woman and person of color to to be district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California.
Serena & Venus Williams
The tennis sisters are phenomenal athletes, with 122 combined career singles titles and a total of nine Olympic medals between the two of them. Serena, 39, is the first tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam titles and has won more than $88 million in prize money—the highest of any female athlete.
In 2019, track star and four-time-Olympian Allyson Felix broke Usain Bolt's record with 13 for the most-ever gold medals won at the world championships.
She's the first female gymnast to win three World all-around titles in a row; the most decorated American gymnast with 30 total World and Olympic medals; and she's won the most World Championship medals by a woman gymnast in history (25), including 19 gold.
March 11, 2021
History of Saxon Drive
According to our Oral History Team,
Saxon Drive was constructed to provide a passageway to Bethune Beach for African Americans from 3rd Avenue to South A1A.
New March Exhibit
Women's History Month
Shyriaka “Shy” Morris
PEACE ARTS Owner & PEACE Project Inc Founder
New Smyrna Beach, FL
Shy Morris (which is short for Shyriaka) selected works will be displayed throughout the Month of March 2021. Shy is a longtime resident (fourth generation) of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. She has logged more than 25 years of community service as a Community Artist with Atlantic Center for the Arts and PEACE ARTS Studios. She has provided free art classes to underserved communities in the area. Shy is owner of P.E.A.C.E. Arts. P.E.A.C.E. is an acronym meaning Positive Education and Creative Expressions. Shy’s work is rich with themes of social justice, diversity, local history and promotes high self-esteem. She is all about creating a better community. The viewers will get a glimpse of the African American experience.
Due to the pandemic, throughout the exhibit, the museum will be closely monitored by staff and will have a capacity of four people at a time. We expect visitors to be responsible by wearing masks and practicing social distancing. The museum has the PPE resources to help create a safe environment.