By Francis Oliver
Levi Coleman, a “young colored man,” came to Sanford, Fla., in 1945 from Elba, Ala., looking for a better life for his family.
In Sanford, the only work available was picking oranges, or cutting celery. He tried the orange groves. Pickers were transported to and from groves by truck. Coming home from a hard day’s work, the truck he was riding in turned over he was thrown from the truck, and suffered injuries to his rib cage.
Levi never got on the back of an orange truck again.
His trade was building, reading blue prints and laying bricks. Looking for a job didn’t take long because there weren’t many brick layers in Sanford. Levi met a white man name Holcomb who needed a man to mix cement mud. Levi was the man.
After the death of Holcomb, Levi decided to go out on his own. He applied for a city of Sanford Contractor License, passed the test and received his bond, making him the first black licensed contractor in the city of Sanford. Levi later received his license from Seminole County and the state of Florida.
It was not easy being “colored contractor.” Only one bank in Sanford and Seminole County would finance his houses. He never overcome the racism and discrimination shown him by the banks and building inspectors by self-financing some of the first homes and businesses he built.
Thank’s for reading the story about my dad, and my family’s contribution to black history.
Francis Oliver is a long time community activist, and she is the founder of the Goldsboro Museum.