Florida boasts a variety of Black heritage experiences, cultural offerings and events
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (February 26): African Americans have shaped history and culture in the Sunshine State for centuries. VISIT FLORIDA celebrates the Black community’s contribution to Florida year-round, highlighting a wide-range of African American heritage experiences, Black-owned businesses, events and more on its Black Heritage Travel Hub.
Discover Florida’s Black heritage and vibrant history through a wide range of immersive experiences and events available during Black History Month and beyond.
MaVynee Betsch, also known as “The Beach Lady” is one of Amelia Island’s important historical figures and most notably associated with American Beach, which she promised to protect and preserve. Founded in 1935 by Betsch’s grandfather, American Beach was Florida’s first Black beach resort, an oasis for Black beachgoers during the years of segregation. Nearby, sits NaNa Dune, a towering 8.5-acre sand dune conserved by the National Park Services as part of the African American Civil Rights Grant Program. Today, visitors can enjoy the beach and visit the American Beach Museum to learn more about the region’s African American history.
Dedicated to the art of storytelling, the Amelia Island Museum of History is the first spoken history museum in Florida. Its Heritage Keepers Project focuses on the local history of Nassau County and the evolution of tourism, Fernandina’s industrial history, and the African American life and influence.
Overnight at the Williams House an award-winning bed & breakfast in Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, named after Marchellus A. Williams, an active figure in the Underground Railroad movement. Union troops used his residences as headquarters and an infirmary during their occupation, and the Williams House became a safe house for fleeing slaves.
A small coastal town that has a big soul, Fort Pierce was once the home and now the final resting place of famous author and storyteller, Zora Neale Hurston. Today, Fort Pierce is known as a vibrant and burgeoning cultural arts mecca for aspiring artists of all backgrounds.
Savor Black history through culinary offerings at Phatz Chicken-n-Shack, whose owner’s mother was once a student of Zora Neale Hurston. Take a leisurely stroll down the Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Trail and learn more about the artist’s history and life in Fort Pierce. Along the way, visit her former home, now a designated National Historic Landmark, and final resting place. The city is also the hometown of 26 African American artists famously known as the Florida Highwaymen, whose journey can be explored along the Highwaymen Trail.
Black heritage is steeped within Jacksonville’s unique culture, thriving art scene and 400-year-old history. The 6ft Away Gallery, a pop-up public art space created by curator, artist, and artist advocate, Shawana Brooks, works to bring local black artists and voter advocacy groups together, and highlights the impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic on Black Americans.
Jacksonville is also home to the Black Mural Map, a lengthy compilation of dazzling murals created by Black artists or featuring famous Black subjects. To see more of what local Black makers have to offer in Jacksonville, visit Mixed Fillings Pie Shop and try their deliciously unique flavors, or Jenkins Quality BBQ for some of their secret hot mustard sauce.
Tour history along the African American Heritage Trail and learn about the many sites that mark the influence of Black heritage in the city.
The 462-year-old city of Pensacola has seen the influence of many cultures and countries, but the Black community specifically has played a large part in shaping the city into what it is today. Known locally as The Blocks, the Belmont-DeVilliers District in Pensacola was once home of many Black-owned businesses, restaurants and music venues, including Abe’s 506 Club where such musical legends as Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Ray Charles, B.B. King and Aretha Franklin all performed. Once again a vibrant community, Belmont-DeVilliers stays true to its history and today is home to restaurants like Blue Dot Barbecue and Five Sisters that will satisfy any hungry visitor.
Discover more Black history in Jacksonville’s MLK Plaza where a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. presides, or at the Chappie James Museum of Pensacola, which honors the first Black officer in the U.S military to attain a four-star full general rank. Fort Pickens, one of the few Union-occupied forts in the south during the American Civil War, was also recently accepted into the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
For over 100 years, Black residents played a major role in the development of Sarasota, and the county will celebrate Black History Month with a number of virtual events this year. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom details the story of Lynda Blackmon, the youngest person to walk all the way from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on the Voting Rights March in 1965.
Through March 14, the Choral Artists of Sarasota presents Marching to Freedom, a reconstruction of the road to freedom, and its struggle, showcased through gospel, spiritual pieces and art songs composed by Black Americans.
Also in Sarasota, Black Muse 2021 Group Exhibition is a virtual gallery of Floridian artists of African descent, promoted by Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative, Inc., The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and Art Center Sarasota.
In Leesburg, located in Central Florida, visitors can discover and explore Flora: An Exploration of Fragility and Growth, a multimedia art exhibit celebrating Black Artist J.Murph’s creative process to create music. A blend of poetry, music, and visual art, this exhibit is the first of its kind at the Leesburg Center for the Arts’ CFA Gallery.
Florida invites visitors to experience the African-American contributions to Florida’s education, culture and economy during Black History Month and beyond.
For more information on the Sunshine State or to plan a 2021 vacation to Florida, visit www.VisitFlorida.com.
About VISIT FLORIDA:
As the Sunshine State’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming 131.4 million visitors in 2019. Based on the latest economic impact study, Florida visitors contributed $96.5 billion to Florida's economy and supported 1.6 million Florida jobs in 2019. According to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, for every $1 the state invests in VISIT FLORIDA, the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida, $3.27 in tax revenue is generated. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism to Florida through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs. As a public/private partnership, VISIT FLORIDA serves more than 13,000 tourism industry businesses, including major strategic alliance partnerships with Busch Gardens Tampa, Disney Destinations, Hilton, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA follow @FloridaTourism on Facebook and Twitter or visit www.visitflorida.org. For inspiration from the Sunshine State, follow @VISITFLORIDA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.visitflorida.com. For media resources, visit www.visitfloridamedia.com.
Nati Ucros, Publicist