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An 'Ode To South Broward' Art Exhibit Highlights The County's Black History, Calls For New Museum

Old Dillard Museum was the first public school built for black students in Fort Lauderdale. In the 1920s, Dr. Joseph A. Ely was its principal.

He went on to be principal at what is now Attucks Middle School in Hollywood.    

A recently opened art exhibit, "Ode to South Broward," honors Ely's contribution to black education and also pays homage to four historically black neighborhoods in that part of the county: Liberia in Hollywood, Danie in Dania Beach, Carver Ranches and Northwest Hallandale Beach. 

"Ode to South Broward" is free and will be on display at Old Dillard Museum through February, during Black History Month.


"All the pictures I had were old newspaper clippings ... old, grainy, black and white," Hollywood artist Kyle Harris said. 

She painted the signature, large-scale portrait of J.A. Ely at the entrance to Old Dillard Museum. It's acrylic on canvas, and has lots of blue hues around Ely's face. 

"I recognized the name from streets, I've heard the name, I've seen it here and there, but really didn't know," Harris said of J.A. Ely. "In doing this painting and doing the research, I found out that when it comes to education, he was like, the leader of the pack."

Ely was married to another well-known Broward activist and principal, Blanche Ely. 

"[He] and Blanche Ely are basically the parents of black education in Broward County," art show curator Emmanuel George said. "I want to be able to honor him as well as honor South Broward."

George is passionate about establishing a platform for black artists in Broward County. He combined that with his other passion for history when he curated "Ode To South Broward."

"When you look at Broward County, it's always Fort Lauderdale, Sistrunk, Pompano ... but a lot of people don't talk about South Broward's black history," George said. "We need our story to be told." 

The show includes more than 20 pieces of work: a film, archived photos, and locally based black artists' paintings.

Read More: Broward County Artist Discovers Family History Through Her Work For The Sistrunk Art Fair

Pompano Beach is home to Blanche Ely High School, and the renovated Blanche Ely House Museum. George hopes this art show can raise awareness for the south eastern portion of the county to get a new museum and resource hub dedicated to her husband, J.A. Ely. 

"South Broward, we don't have anything and we have four historical black communities. And we want to be able to preserve as much history left," George said. "As well as just have a place where people can come and be a part of community development."