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Garden 468 James Jerome "Cracker" Johnson

Posted By Andrea J. Calcagno, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Flor500 garden created in honor of James “Cracker” Johnson grew from a singular planting into a community event and collaborative class art project.  It began with a few articles I found on the internet from wordpress.com and historicpalmbeach.com while searching for Mr. Johnson’s history. I discovered that he resided in West Palm Beach most of his life and built a lovely home in 1926 that was currently undergoing restoration with its new owners, Natalie and Serena Hopkinson. They had spent several years making necessary structural and utility repairs, exhausting their funds while hoping to acquire additional assistance to continue their labor of love. I reviewed pictures of the amazing work they had accomplished and saw there was an opportunity to extend their vision to the front garden. I contacted them to discuss the concept of a landscaping event which collaborated with other FIU students, neighborhood residents, local businesses and organizations tied to the surrounding community. They were elated to hear that Mr. Johnson was honored as a historic Florida contributor and his home was considered for the restoration project.

Mr. Johnson’s home is a symbol of his legacy in the local community. Mr. James Jerome “Cracker” Johnson (1877-1946) was a renowned black entrepreneur that encouraged economic growth and community relations during the Great Depression and years of segregation. His business ventures included vast amounts of real estate purchases, theater and several nightclubs establishments, bootlegging and bolita numbers game and mortgage loans for the black community. He was know as a profound philanthropist and even loaned the city of West Palm Beach $50,000 to balance their budget during tough economic times. He was a remarkable business man especially since he had a limited education, could not read or write and was labeled due to his “mixed” background. He overcame economic and cultural hardships, built up a growing community and left a profound mark on all who encountered him.

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Tags:  landscaping event  restoration project 

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FIU College of Architecture + The Arts


Xavier Cortada
Artist-in-Residence
Florida International University
College of Architecture + The Arts
420 Lincoln Road, Suite 430
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Xavier Cortada's participatory art practice is based at Florida International University.






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