Black history


Longtime educator Celesta Washington Crosby, of Bartow, was honored at a recent Bartow City Commission meeting. She was accompanied by her son, Garry Crosby, also of Bartow, as Bartow Mayor Billy Simpson presented her with a proclamation as part of a celebration of Black History Month.


BARTOW — The Bartow City Commission recently celebrated February’s role as Black History Month by issuing a proclamation to honor the life and work of Celesta Washington Crosby, 90, who educated countless Bartow youth in both segregated and desegregated schools.

Black History Month and its impact on Bartow was front and center at the recent city commission meeting.

Crosby, a lifelong Bartow resident, received the proclamation from Bartow Mayor Billy Simpson during a ceremonial presentation. The proclamation honored the contributions she had made as an educator and beyond.

“While the city's observance of Black History Month calls our city's attention to the continued need to battle racism and to build a society that lives up to its democratic ideals, this year's recognition is especially significant because we are honoring a Bartow legend,” the proclamation read.

Crosby was accompanied by her husband, Manny, 93, and the couple was also applauded for their 70 years of marriage.

Crosby was a teacher who taught at various elementary schools in Bartow, including Union Academy, both during and after segregation. She has been a fixture within Bartow’s African-American community for decades.

“We urge citizens to recognize the contributions of African-Americans, such as Mrs. Crosby, and to celebrate the diverse heritage and culture and continue its efforts to create a world that is more just, peaceful, loving and prosperous for us all,” Simpson said.

Also at last week's commission meeting, city officials lauded Clifford Lewis, a local historian who almost single-handedly led a drive years ago to preserve the former home of L. B. Brown, a freed slave and one of the city's earliest and most successful black citizens.

This year, the two-day L.B. Brown Festival was held last weekend, with a host of events centered around the restored home, which is located at 470 L.B. Brown Avenue in Bartow.

The festival was a family-friendly affair with vendors, entertainment, storytellers and more, all focusing on the contributions by the black community to Bartow. Presentations included the Young Leadership awards on Friday, Feb. 7, along with displays and discussions from re-enactors portraying members of the U.S. Colored Troops, who served in the armed forces both during and after the Civil War.

On Saturday, there was a panel discussion, musical performances, a talent show and a fashion slow.

The L.B.Brown house is not only a landmark in Bartow and Florida, but has also been featured in displays at national museums in Washington, D.C.