When the Orange Park Normal and Industrial School opened October 7, 1891, probably none of the excited participants imagined that within three years the school would incur the wrath of Florida’s superintendent of public instruction and would result in the passage of a state law prohibiting teaching blacks and whites under the same roof. Rather, the school began with enthusiastic community support and the expectation that its influence would reach throughout upper Florida and lower Georgia. The Orange Park school was founded by the American Missionary Association of New York, the most significant benevolent society then engaged in educating blacks. The association had been canvassing Florida for a suitable school location when Orange Park offered to give it ample grounds in the center of town. An AMA visit revealed an attractive village on the St. Johns River with a nucleus of sympathetic Northerners, and an urgent need for a school for black youths. The AMA gratefully accepted the proffered land and in early 1891 began constructing school buildings.
Richardson, Joe M.
""The Nest of Vile Fanatics": William N. Sheats and the Orange Park School,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 64:
4, Article 4.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol64/iss4/4