Jacksonville Turns 200: Yellow fever outbreaks

In the late 1880s, Jacksonville was a busy port.

“People traveled to Jacksonville from other seaport towns up and down the East Coast of the United States,” Dr. Alan Bliss with the Jacksonville Historical Society said. “That tended to make a lively and fertile place for communicable diseases to establish themselves.”


In 1886 and 1888, Jacksonville was hit by yellow fever epidemics.

“A rumor spread in Jacksonville that Black people weren’t as susceptible to yellow fever,” Dr. David Jamison with Edward Waters University. “And there were reports that Blacks were kept out of refugee camps on the outside of Jacksonville. So, a lot of white Jacksonvillians left the city to escape the epidemic and a lot of Blacks were not allowed to leave. So the population of Blacks in Jacksonville relative to whites grew during that time.”

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During 1888, about 400 people died. About 10,000 to 25,000 people living in Jacksonville fled to the suburbs, damaging the city’s reputation as a tourist destination.

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