Year of Publication
College of Arts and Sciences
Master of Arts in History (MA)
Daniel L. Schafer
Charles E. Owens
In 1967 Sallye Brooks Mathis and Mary Littlejohn Singleton were elected the first blacks in sixty years, and the first women ever, to the city council of Jacksonville, Florida. These two women had been raised in Jacksonville in a black community which, in spite of racial discrimination and segregation since the Civil War, had demonstrated positive leadership and cooperative action as it developed its own organizations and maintained a thriving civic life. Jacksonville blacks participated in politics when allowed to do so and initiated several economic boycotts and court suits to resist racial segregation. Black women played an important part in these activities--occasionally in visible leadership roles.
As adults, Sallye Mathis and Mary Singleton· participated as educators, family members and leaders in various community efforts. Both had developed wide contacts and were respected among many blacks and whites. Mary Singleton had learned about politics as the wife of a respected black politician, and Sallye Mathis became a leader in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s in Jacksonville. In 1967, a governmental reform movement in Duval County, a softening of negative racial attitudes, and perhaps their being female aided their victories.
While Sallye Mathis remained on the Jacksonville City Council for fifteen years until her death in 1982, Mary Singleton served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1976--the third black in the twentieth century and the first woman from Northeast Florida. From 1976 to 1978 she was appointed director of the Florida Division of Elections and in 1978 she campaigned unsuccessfully for Lt. Governor of Florida.
As government officials, Sallye Mathis and Mary Singleton emphasized the needs of low-income people and were advocates for black interests when they felt it was necessary. They were active as volunteers in numerous other community organizations and projects to further their goals.
Walch, Barbara Hunter, "Sallye B. Mathis and Mary L. Singleton: Black pioneers on the Jacksonville, Florida, City Council" (1988). UNF Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 704.