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Close Up of Pink Roses

Black Historical Tours

Image by Eugene Golovesov

Norma S. White, 25th International President &

Dr. Brenda Simmons-Hutchins, Chair

For more than four decades, Gamma Rho Omega Chapter has conducted the traditional step-on bus tour of Black Historical Sites in Jacksonville and surrounding locations on the First Coast. The initial tours were conducted on January 9, 27 and February 24, 1979.  The late Bettye Sessions was the founding Chair.  She, along with the original committee members- Brenda Simmons-Hutchins, the late Wilma Austin, Ava Bell, Annie Ruth Williams, Dorothy Williams and Camilla Thompson served as tour guides.  The last original committee member, Dr. Brenda R. Simmons-Hutchins, currently serves as the Black Historical Tours Committee Chair.


The landmark tour was a determined effort by many to research and select sites, secure Jacksonville City Council funding and implement a tour that will be a constant reminder of the depth of contributions of African Americans to the city. Resolution 78-976, sponsored by then Councilman Rodney Hurst, authorized the Chapter to provide this service to the community. Later, the Chapter also acquired grant funding to place historical markers at selected sites in the Northwest and Arlington areas of the city.

Bishop Henry Y. Tookes House

(GRO Sorority House)

In 2022, the Committee unveiled the Virtual Black Historical Tour offering ideal for groups and organizations who desire a baseline perspective of Jacksonville's Black History with just the right amount of time to devote to their educational interests. The beginning point of either tour is the Gamma Rho Omega Chapter's Sorority house, formerly the home of Bishop and Mrs. Henry Y. Tookes of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The house was built in 1939-40. There are two distinct points of pride namely that in 2022, the house gained the distinction of being placed on the National Registry of Historical Places.  The building also houses memorabilia from Dr. Norma Solomon White, the 25th International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®.

Over the years, the Black Historical Tours Committee has been led by many capable Chapter members. The tour has  welcomed tourists including school-aged children, family reunions, local and national organizations. The Gamma Rho Omega Chapter's Jacksonville Black Historical Tour in either format is a delightful manner to  educate the community, enhance tourist knowledge and enrich the lives of all who believe in continuing education.

Image by Eugene Golovesov
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