Keith Halderman


Blanche Armwood was born in Tampa on January 3, 1890, into a well-established middle-class black family. Her maternal grandfather, Adam Holloman, had been appointed in 1875 to the Hillsborough County Commission by then-Governor Marcellus L. Stearns. That same year he purchased four parcels of land which totalled 123 acres. Her great uncle, John Armwood, had been a negotiator between the Seminoles and white settlers on the southern Florida frontier. He also became an early landowner when he successfully homesteaded 159 acres in Hillsborough County. Her father, Levin Armwood, was Tampa’s first black policeman and subsequently served as county deputy sheriff. He and Blanche’s brother, Walter, jointly owned and operated the Gem, which was for many years Tampa’s only black drugstore. Walter Armwood also held positions as professor at Bethune-Cookman College and, during World War I, as Florida state supervisor for the U.S. Bureau of Negro Economics. One of her sisters, Idela Street, became a licensed businesswoman in Tampa in 1910. Blanche matriculated from St. Peter Claver Catholic School, Tampa’s best school for blacks at the time, at the age of twelve. She then passed the Florida State Uniform Teachers Examination that same year. Enrolling immediately at Spelman Institute in Atlanta, she graduated at age 16 with a degree in English and Latin.1 During the next seven years she taught in the Tampa public schools. During those early years she developed a deep and lasting concern for the social questions which her education and experiences raised in her.