The Sunshine State hosts a variety of Black Heritage experiences and events starting in January

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Feb. 11, 2020): To highlight the major role that African Americans have played in Florida heritage, here is a selection of events and experiences to help visitors learn more about the Sunshine State's vibrant cultural roots.

This February, visitors can experience Black History Month experiences and activities throughout the state.

In the northwest, Pensacola puts its multicultural past on display, honoring the African American settlers, soldiers and immigrants whose history helped shape modern-day Pensacola. Check out the Chappie James Museum of Pensacola, recognized by the National Register of Historical places, to discover the storied life of General Daniel “Chappie” James. Born during the height of the Jim Crow era, Chappie became one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, and later, the nation’s first black four-star general. The museum, open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., features an aviation experience and storytelling sessions for youth. A memorial plaza serves as a palpable reminder of the strength and perseverance of Pensacola’s black community—even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Nearby, the 206th Mississippi Blues Marker was dedicated at the intersection of Belmont and DeVilliers streets, a historically black neighborhood whose residents were pushed out of the city center after segregation and mounting racial tension. The neighborhood became a thriving commercial hub and was a prominent stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit, a network of mostly black-owned entertainment venues that sprung to life during segregation. This circuit nurtured the careers of American music legends such as B.B. King, Junior Parker and Sam Cooke. The marker honors the legacy of the Blues and recognizes those who fostered the growth and appreciation of the Blues, including Gussie Streeter of Gussie’s Record Shop and Abe Pierce Sr. of Abe’s 506 and Savoy Ballroom.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee boasts an array of historic museums and festivals that make perfect stops during Black History Month. Named by the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978, the Riley House commemorates the life of its owner, John Riley, who was born into slavery and went on to become a teacher and principal for the local school board. The museum represents the thriving, middle-class black community that once existed in Smokey Hollow (downtown Tallahassee) and preserves African American history and culture, from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights movement. Tallahassee’s annual Harambee Festival, a community-wide cultural celebration,  inspires and educates attendees through musical performances, cultural art, spoken word, fashion, African drumming, dance and more. The free event takes places on Feb. 22, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Cascades Park. Smokey Hollow itself is worth exploring, as hundreds of African American residents called it home for more than 60 years. Eliminated by urban renewal in the 1960s, former residents revived the national historic district with a village-type exhibit in Cascades Park. It includes a fully restored barbershop (once the heart of the community), vegetable gardens, reflecting pool and three replicas of former houses.

In the northeast, St. Augustine boasts a rich and diverse history, dating back to 1565, when free Africans came with the Spanish to found the nation’s oldest continuously occupied settlement. Visitors can journey through the city’s fabled streets and learn about the many historical landmarks, including Fort Mose. This 40-acre waterfront site highlights the residents of the first free Black settlement who later marched in a local militia to help fight off British forces. The fort brings history to life with historical re-enactments and weapons demonstrations. For a more comprehensive look at the city’s African-American heritage, take one of the historic walking tours that focuses on Black History and the Civil Rights Journey. These free guided tours take visitors through 10 different historical sites in downtown St. Augustine, including a stop at the Civil Rights Museum.

On Florida’s Cultural Coast, visitors can hop on a Newtown Alive trolley for a guided, two-hour tour of Newtown, Sarasota’s oldest black community. With the recent addition of Newtown African-American Heritage Trail to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, visitors can learn about Sarasota's trailblazing civil rights activism. As part of the Newtown Alive initiative, the Heritage Trail brings to life the events of 1951, when Newtown residents protested the injustice of racial segregation by requesting access to nearby Lido Beach. When their request was ignored, the residents began “wade-ins” to make their voices heard. With 15 historic markers, the Newtown African American Heritage Trail brings visitors along the route these activists took as they made their way to local beaches. Along the way, tour guides share the stories of the 1950s beach caravans, personal accounts of courage from civil rights pioneers, and the community’s rich history.

Florida invites visitors to experience the African-American contributions to Florida’s education, culture and economy during Black History Month and beyond.





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