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Sunday Favorites: A Family Legacy


On Tuesday, Feb 20, I was invited to attend the premiere of a documentary that featured one of Manatee County’s most influential families. I have written about different members of the Rogers family over the years, particularly the patriarch, Garfield Devoe “G.D.” Rodgers Sr. (1885-1951). G.D.’s lifetime accomplishments included progressive projects such as establishing Lincoln Academy, the first school for Black children in the area, creating a life insurance company for Black residents, and founding the first golf course for Black people in Tampa.

Minnie Rogers looks over documents. Date unknown.
Minnie Rogers looks over documents. Date unknown.
As often happens in historical narratives, the contributions of women can sometimes be overshadowed by those of their male counterparts. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Minnie Thompson Rogers (1882 - 1981), Garfield’s wife, was the main subject of Tuesday night’s feature “The Life and Legacy of Minnie Rogers.”

Minnie was a remarkable figure in Florida's history. Born in Leesburg, Fla, she came to the area with her family as a young woman. The family traveled from Tampa on a barge alongside livestock. During her youth, she immersed herself in musical education within her church community while also shouldering the responsibilities of employment, washing dishes for a white household before and after her school hours. Even in those early years, she keenly recognized the inequities of being relegated to using the back entrance and being denied access to certain facilities, according to the documentary.

She married G.D. Rogers in 1909. Together, they vowed to improve their lives as well as the lives of their fellow African Americans. Despite only having a third-grade education, G.D. was a brilliant man and naturally a successful businessman. He ran a variety of companies including a farm, dry cleaners, and funeral home. Working alongside her husband as he rose to become one of the most influential Black businessmen and Civil Rights Leaders in Florida, Minnie also made history. She was the first Black woman to receive funeral home licensure and she was also a well-known community leader, according to a 1987 oral history her daughter, Louise Rogers Johnson (1910 – 1992) gave to the Manatee County Historical Society.

Minnie was instrumental in establishing community organizations such as the West Bradenton Women's Club and played a key role in founding the area's first public nursery school, highlighting her dedication to education and community development, Louise stated.

The documentary highlighted her friendship with Mary McLeod Bethune, a prominent African American educator and civil rights leader who established one of the first colleges for Black women. Minnie and G.D.’s commitment to helping Bethune further exemplifies their commitment to social progress. Collaborating with Bethune, Minnie secured National Youth Administration funds in 1937 to establish the 13th Avenue Community Center for African Americans, now called the 13th Avenue Dream Center, which provides vital resources and support to children in underserved communities.

“For over eight decades, the 13th Avenue Dream Center has been a haven, a resource, a teacher, a friend, a brother, for children in need,” said Dr. Derrick L. Randall, CEO and president of the center.

Minnie Thompson Rogers' role as a mother raising nine children was also significant. In addition to her achievements and contributions to the community, her influence on her children and passion for education undoubtedly played a crucial role in shaping their futures and empowering them to pursue their own paths of success.

The fact that many of her children went on to create their own historic legacies in Manatee County and elsewhere, is evidence of Minnie’s impact as a nurturing and supportive parent. Her guidance, values, and determination likely instilled in them a strong sense of purpose, resilience, and the belief that they could overcome any obstacles they encountered.

As each of her children made their mark on history, Minnie’s role as a mother became even more apparent. Behind every great achievement, there is often a supportive family structure providing encouragement, guidance, and love, and Minnie was undoubtedly a central figure in providing such support as evidenced by the generations of family members that came out to view her documentary on Tuesday night.

In recognizing her role as a mother, we gain a deeper appreciation for Minnie Thompson Rogers' multifaceted contributions to her family's legacy and to the broader community of Manatee County. Her dedication to her children and her commitment to their success further solidify her place as a key figure in the Rogers family's storied history.

“The true impact of the Rogers family impact cannot be qualified. However, it is evidenced through the smiling faces of each child you see running around these walls, and the countless lawyers, doctors, professional athletes, teachers, and successful former youth that have at some point attended the 13th Avenue Dream Center, “Randall said.

By studying figures like Minnie Thompson Rogers, we gain a deeper understanding of the diverse individuals who have shaped Florida's history and contributed to the progress and betterment of society.

Merab Favorite is a published author and historical columnist for The Bradenton Times. She can be reached at favorite.merab@gmail.com


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  • alanbtt

    Hi - loved your article on the big chimney house in Ellenton. Sugar brought the first settlers to Manatee and it would be interesting to know more about Craig, his neighbors Gamble and Braden. While Gamble was a failure many others succeeded until the Union soldiers came along. Keep up the great work

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