Eartha White

By Peggy Macdonald

Humanitarian, educator, philanthropist (Jacksonville)

Years: 1876–1974

Remembered for: Established multiple charities in Jacksonville to provide support to anyone in need.

Why you should know her:

Eartha Mary Magdalene White’s grandmother was sold at auction in Jacksonville, and her mother, Clara English White — who was born into slavery — taught Eartha to help those in need. As a result, White devoted her life to serving humanity, improving the lives of countless Jacksonville residents. Historian Maxine D. Jones observed that Eartha White had as much influence on Jacksonville as Mary McLeod Bethune had in Daytona Beach.

Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901 destroyed thousands of buildings and left more than 10,000 people homeless. To compensate for the dearth of social services available to African Americans, Eartha and Clara White turned their home into a mission and established the “Colored Old Folks Home” for African Americans in 1902, Jones wrote in a 1999 Florida Historical Quarterly article, “Without Compromise or Fear.” When the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, White helped register so many Black women to vote that they outnumbered White women in some Jacksonville wards during the fall 1920 election.

After her mother died, Eartha established the Clara White Mission and provided care to African Americans with tuberculosis; opened a home for unwed mothers and a daycare for working mothers; and established an orphanage, child placement service and unemployment agency. As Jones noted, the city of Jacksonville and Duval County did not offer these services to Black residents so White took on the responsibility. She began Eartha M.M. White Health Care, a nursing home facility, when she was 89.

In 1970, White won the Lane Bryant Award for Volunteer Service and in 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed her to the President’s National Center for Voluntary Action. She was designated a Great Floridian by the Florida Department of State in the Great Floridians 2000 Program. Eartha White died in 1974 at age 97.

Featured imageEartha White, standing, with her mother, Clara English White