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In 1927, the Girl Scout organization arrived in Jacksonville. While several lone troops were in the area prior to that, a central organization affiliated with Girl Scouts national organization was yet to be established. When the 1927 charter for Girl Scouts in Duval County was granted, the existing troops were in white residential areas, and opening the Girl Scouts to include all girls required patience and persistence on the part of the African American community. The sequence of events is illustrated through the board minutes of the Duval County Girl Scouts.
In 1932 under the auspices of the then Duval County Girl Scouts, seventy-seven members of Jacksonville's African American community registered for the first training classes required for Girl Scout troop captains, as leaders were called then.
Mrs. Temperance C. McCutcheon was at the vanguard of the effort, becoming the first President of the Girl Scout Leadership Association. (Group photo from 1940s). Girl Scouting had begun in the African-American community, and it thrives to this day.
Among the early troop sponsors Mrs. McCutcheon listed in her 1932-1934 report were the churches, including Mt. Zion AME (#50), Bethel Baptist (#51), St. Paul’s AME (#52), Mt. Olive Baptist (#53), Ebenezer (#54), Moore’s Chapel Church (#55, #56), Day Spring Baptist (#57), and New Bethel AME (#58).
In 1939, the Negro Divisional Board was established with the same organizational structure as the Duval County Girl Scouts. Mrs. Clayton served as President.
Camping has always been an integral part of the Girl Scout experience and Mrs. McCutcheon’s 1932-1934 report credits the efforts of Mr. Joseph H. James, Grand Master D.D. Powell, Mr. D.H. Dwight and members of the community for their staunch support for the first day camp at New Berlin in 1933. That was the beginning of what would become annual summer camps at various Jacksonville venues: LaVilla, Oakland, Wilder Parks; St Nicholas Church, St. Phillips, Boylan-Haven School, Moncrief Springs, and Camp Lincoln to name a few. For several years beginning in 1942, the Cookman School in St. Augustine became a resident camp.
From these successful camping experiences, the Negro Divisional Board and the Inter-racial Committee of Duval County Girl Scouts realized African-American Girl Scouts in Jacksonville needed a permanent, established camp. The seed was planted in 1945, and in due course, Camp Chanyata grew into reality.
In 1944 there were 16 African American troops registered in the Duval County Girl Scouts. Activities ranged from participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Sale, to crafts, and community service.
In 1946, Troop 252 at St. Paul AME was awarded The Juliette Low World Friendship prize for raising the most funds of any group for the World Friendship Fund, which the national Girl Scouts contributed to relieve the suffering of children in war devastated areas.
A Seat At The Table
By 1946, the Girl Scout Executive Committee - chairs of the various committees on the Negro Divisional Board began meeting with the Girl Scout Council of Duval County to align the program with national standards.
By the late 1940s at least 100 women had served as members of the Girl Scout Leadership Association, trained to lead Girl Scout troops and activities. In 1948, Senior Girl Scout Troop 250 from Boylan Haven School attended a Regional Girl Scout Conference at Camp Chowenwaw in Green Cove Springs in Clay County - the first time African American girls were invited to participate.
The Scorpio District chair began serving as a member of the Duval County Girl Scout Council in 1952, as the Duval County Girl Scouts' organizational structure changed to conform to national standards. Adults attended leadership trainings while the girls trained as nurses aids and attended film screenings. They planned for the development of their new camp property.
Later in the 1950s, two leaders from Scorpio District, Miss Louise Graham and Mrs. Elizabeth Simmons, attended Edith Macy Training Center in New York.
In1955 the Girl Scout Regional Conference held at the George Washington Hotel in downtown Jacksonville was an integrated gathering.
In 1964, African American Girl Scouts were invited to attend the 1965 summer session at Camp Chowenwaw.
Bringing the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to girls was not without its challenges, but adults who believed in the mission of Girl Scouting persisted through the years, each generation encouraging and supporting the next. Their courage, confidence, and character have made them role models for girls and for the community they serve.