Committee suggests naming new plaza after Minnie L. Rogers

mvalverde@bradenton.comSeptember 28, 2012 

BRADENTON -- "In 1910, I was elected president of the Ladies Aid Society of Mt. Pleasant Methodist Episcopal Church," begins a typed letter by Minnie L. Rogers titled History of the West Bradenton Woman's Club 1911-1983.

"... We had a small membership and seeing the need of the children and adults of the community, I decided to organize the women of the community to do something to improve our conditions in our city."

The text goes on to explain how on a Monday afternoon in June 1911 she called women from every church to join the club, how membership grew to 100, and how a house and lots bought in 1922 became too small for activities, "so I went to the Mayor and the City Council and asked to use land that the city owned for a playground for black children. They gladly let us use the land," Rogers wrote.

Now, approximately 100 years after the club was founded, an ad hoc committee recommended to Bradenton's Central Community Redevelopment Agency board that a new grocery and retail plaza that will be built at a lot on First Street and 13th Avenue West be named in honor of Minnie L. Rogers.

On Thursday evening, the CCRA board approved the name Minnie L. Rogers Plaza and Retail Center and will pass on the recommendation to the developer.

"It's very significant. We always called my grandmother the unsung hero," said Rogers' granddaughter, Cherie Shanks Johnson, 79. "We thought it was very fitting for her because she had a lot to do with getting the woman's club started. The woman's club at that time was the hub of activities for African-American people. Everything happened there."

At some point, the lot on 13th Avenue West was home

to a nursery school and more recently, a youth center.

School dances, weddings, parties and other social gatherings were celebrated at the 13th Avenue Community Center.

Rogers was "instrumental" in making it all happen, said Ruby Byrd, a Bradenton resident for about 50 years.

She described Rogers as a "great pusher for community development, for positive change, and for education."

The center's formerbuilding was completely demolished by June. A groundbreaking ceremony for a new Save-A-Lot grocery store and other retailers is scheduled for Oct. 22. That construction is expected to begin toward the middle of December.

"When you look all over America there are very few communities who still retain anything from African-American history," said Byrd. "In most communities they don't have a particular landmark, they have either been torn down or become slum areas and young people coming up have no knowledge of the past. If you don't know where you've been, you can't know where you're going."

Kathie Marsh, museum specialist at the Family Heritage House Museum, was part of the committee tasked with coming up with ways to memorialize the 13th Avenue West site. Deciding on naming the plaza after Rogers "was pretty much a slam dunk," Marsh said.

"There really wasn't any question on whether it should be her," she added.

Rogers died in 1985 at the age of 93, her granddaughter said.

Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamValverde.

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