More than 150 years ago, a history-making event changed the lives of Black Americans across the country. On June 19th, 1865, the last 250,000 enslaved Americans finally gained their freedom when Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation. Commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, we celebrate what we know today as Juneteenth. Juneteenth offers a moment to take a special look at the African American experience and feel pride for all that we’ve managed to accomplish. It is a way to remind us of all of the rich histories of African Americans and the need to tell and share those stories, especially those that have not always been told.
In celebration of Juneteenth, we are highlighting another member of the Stirrup family, the one who started it all, Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup. Before he became the great-grandfather of the Stirrup Sisters, E.W.F. Stirrup was an entrepreneur who transformed a Miami community into a legacy for his family to learn and grow from for future generations.
E.W.F. Stirrup was born on Governors Harbor Island in the Bahamas in 1873 and immigrated to The United States in 1888 at the age of 15. After arriving in Key West, Florida, Stirrup apprenticed under his uncle, learning woodworking and carpentry. While the daytime was mostly spent working in the overgrowing pineapple fields, it was at night when Stirrup made his real money. As a second job, he would clear land for property owners and be often paid in land instead of cash. This allowed Stirrup to acquire an abundance of real estate, which was not at all common for Black men at that time. The nights spent working on his own land gave him the advantage of becoming a homeowner in his twenties. As Stirrup began setting his roots in Coconut Grove, it would quickly turn into the first black community in the state of Florida.
The Black Grove
With his handy carpentry skills, Stirrup began building homes on the land he now owned with the intent of having other Bahamian immigrants and their families live there when they arrived. What turned into a few homes soon became more than a hundred, offering affordable housing for not only Bahamian immigrants but African Americans who came to South Florida as well. It wasn’t long before Coconut Grove became known as a destination for Black families, giving it the nickname Black Grove. In the heart of the Miami neighborhood, E.W.F. Stirrup hand-built a two-story yellow and white home on Charles Avenue. Still standing today, this 1897 home is admired for its superior wood frame and vernacular architecture. Through hard work, business savviness, and dedication to family and community, he built a legacy that still lasts to this day. Stirrup became a fixture in the community as the first Black developer in South Florida, an entrepreneur, and a leader.
The roots of Stirrup family entrepreneurism run deep. Even with his success as the first Black developer in South Florida, E.W.F. Stirrup didn’t stop at houses when it came to providing for the community. He had many other business ventures that were created anytime he saw a need. From owning a grocery store, bicycle repair shop, tailor shop, meat market, horse, and even a buggy business, Stirrup was always uplifting those who have been marginalized for so long. Thankfully, he had the support of others who continued to be inspired by his accomplishments. Stirrup continued to grow his businesses with his growing family by his side and living in the household he built for 58 years. The 1897 home would be occupied by his decedents even after his death in 1957. The mesmerizing Stirrup House would later be restored into a popular bed and breakfast owned and run by the younger generation of Stirrups. Now surrounded by fine dining, hip and casual restaurants, sidewalk cafes, galleries, and specialty boutiques, the beautiful 5-bedroom home is now the perfect place to get away from the stresses of big city life and enjoy the tranquil lifestyle of Coconut Grove.
New Round of Stirrups
All of the work E.W.F. Stirrup built still continues through the Stirrup Properties, one of the many businesses that the family possesses in honor of the generous businessman. In fact, the overall origin of family business has expanded, proving that entrepreneurship runs in the bloodline. His great-granddaughters and founders of Kazmaleje have been able to tap into the Stirrup legacy of successful business ownership. From being featured on television segments, gracing the cover of magazines, and partnering with big retail stores worldwide, it’s become a full circle of history for LaToya, LaTasha, and LaTrice Stirrup and her sisters. What they are building for their children and future generations to come shows just how powerful one person can be for so many. While creating a solution for Black women’s hair, the sisters launched Kazmaleje to offer a collection of tools and accessories designed for textured hair.
The Importance of Black Businesses
The Black community’s long history of entrepreneurship is marked by ebbs and flows. But it’s important to not give up despite the hurdles that may arise. Especially in a world that requires businesses to bend and weave according to consumer expectations, Black-owned businesses shouldn’t be discouraged in their journey but supported. By empowering Black businesses through growth and educational resources, we build supportive ecosystems that help make our world a better place. In fact, Black business ownership is now up by almost 30% compared to the pre-pandemic level. In an effort to take a systemic approach to end systematic racism, it’s important to support Black businesses by buying black, and adding circulating to the Black dollar. By fueling Black businesses, we collectively nourish both the business and consumer sectors of the economy. Even if someone has just one idea, it can be enough to nourish transgenerational entrepreneurship and make a difference that lasts for decades.
Follow us on Instagram @kazmaleje as we celebrate black businesses leading up to Juneteeth.