VISIT FLORIDA commemorates Black History Month this February by highlighting its ever-growing list of attractions and Black-owned businesses across the state.
It’s easier than ever to find and support local Black-owned businesses and restaurants, but more than just that, Florida has many smaller museums and cultural institutions that celebrate Black culture. Starting from the Panhandle and moving south, these are some of the key experiences to share with travelers in 2023.
Pensacola invites visitors to explore Black culture in a museum completely dedicated to General Daniel "Chappie" James, the first Black officer in the history of the United States military to attain a four-star full general rank. The General Daniel Chappie James Museum of Pensacola, Inc., housed in Chappie’s childhood home, is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and offers programs designed to tell his story.
Pensacola’s Fort Pickens, one of the few Union-occupied forts in the south during the American Civil War, was accepted into the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom in 2020. The site, operated by the Gulf Islands National Seashore, was a beacon in 1861 and 1862 for freedom seekers.
In the time of segregation, Belmont-DeVilliers was the commercial and cultural hub of Pensacola’s Black community. Known locally as The Blocks, the neighborhood has been home to 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. Black-owned restaurants continue to offer some of the best culinary offerings in Pensacola, including Blue Dot Barbecue serving simple, delicious fall off the bone ribs and burgers while Five Sisters Blues Cafe cooks up classic southern soul food and delivers a swanky Sunday Jazz Brunch.
As a port city, Amelia Island played a role in the Middle Passage, a stage in the route slave ships took from Africa to America, forcibly transporting millions of Africans to the New World. In Old Town Fernandina, a Middle Passage port marker now stands, commemorating those who died in the crossing and the legacy of those who survived and their descendants. The Gullah Geechee people, descendants of Africans brought in through the Middle Passage, recognize Fernandina Beach as the southernmost island in the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage corridor. Recently, a historical marker was installed in the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor that marks it as a “Site of Memory” associated with the UNESCO Slave Route Project.
Amelia Island welcomed back the A. L. Lewis Museum at American Beach after a two year hiatus. It celebrates visionary A. L. Lewis who created the African American resort of American Beach in 1935 when Florida’s beaches were segregated. The resort attracted celebrities like Zora Neale Hurston, Ray Charles, Hank Aaron and James Brown.
Visitors can also spot Martha’s Hideaway, a two-story Colonial Revival-style home, also known as Hippard House, that belonged to influential business owner and community activist Martha Hippard.
Also on Amelia Island, the Franklintown community was composed of ex-slaves from the Samuel Harrison Plantation following the Emancipation Proclamation. The Franklintown Chapel was established with help from Trinity Methodist Church in 1880. In 1949, the original building was demolished and a new chapel was constructed nearby. In 1972, the Amelia Island Company bought Franklintown and relocated the 1949 chapel, as well as the original 1892 chapel bell, to the American Beach Community.
Jacksonville has an extensive Black history. Previously known as the “Harlem of the South,” Jacksonville is home to the creation of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson, a staple song in the civil rights movement. The city has many local black-owned businesses to highlight.
Silkies Chicken and Champagne Bar boasts a creative champagne cocktail menu and Chef Kenny’s signature “Flavor Bomb,” made of smokey fried chicken thigh served on truffle gouda drop biscuits. Guests can try Oprah’s favorite biscuits while enjoying the atmosphere of historic Springfield. Jax Bread Co. is a local artisan shop in the Southside area run by Nana Hammond, graduate of The International Culinary Center. Mixed Fillings Pie Shop is a specialty pie shop selling the best treats the South has to offer. Often sold out, the bakery was born in the kitchen of our founder Chef Natasha Burton, who has been a private chef to celebrities, professional athletes, actors, busy professionals and families.
Daytona Beach invites visitors to explore Black culture with a fork and knife at Bethune Grill, famous for its wings. The restaurant has been serving the area since its founding in 1997 by Audrey Davis Hines. Make sure to taste Shamp’s Famous Honey Wing Sauce while there.
Relive history in the minor league baseball park where ground-breaking African-American baseball player Jackie Robinson played in the first integrated Major League Baseball spring training game in 1946. Jackie Robinson Ballpark and its statue opened in 1914 and is the fourth oldest park still in use in professional baseball and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Home & Gravesite, a National Historic Landmark, is the former home of civil rights leader, educator and founder of Bethune-Cookman University, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Filled with fascinating artifacts and photos of famous visitors and U.S. presidents, the facility, situated on the scenic grounds of Bethune-Cookman University, offers guided tours.
The historical Howard Thurman Home is the childhood home of one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. A native son of Daytona Beach, he wrote Jesus and the Disinherited (1949), which profoundly influenced a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a host of young activists and leaders in the civil rights movement.
The Smithsonian-affiliated Museum of Arts & Sciences is home to one of the finest African art collections in the Southeast. The impressive collection features masks, sculpted figures and ceremonial and everyday objects from a number of African tribes. Carved commemorative staffs, ritual ornaments, fetishes and 130 pieces of rare Ashante gold are also highlighted in the collection.
Constructed in 1957, Magnolia State Park was created to provide separate recreation facilities to African
Americans during the days of segregation. No longer in existence, the 191-acre park featured 3,000 feet of lake frontage, a boat ramp, a dock, a swimming area, a bath house and picnic pavilions. Magnolia Lake operated adjacent to Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, which was reserved for whites only. At the height of segregation in the 1960s, Magnolia Lake State Park was one of four segregated state parks
for African Americans in Florida. After its closure in 1970, the property was returned to nearby Camp Blanding between Sandhill and Brooklyn lakes. Today, there is a historical marker near the original site of the state park, at the intersection of State Road 21 and Treat Road.
The L.B Brown House is a physical legacy left behind by a former slave who defied the odds and became an incredibly successful Florida business leader. It is possibly the only remaining house in Central Florida built and owned by a former slave. Lawrence B. Brown was born in Alachua County during the last decade of slavery. Following the end of slavery in 1865, his family moved to Volusia County, where Brown would go on to marry, and acquire a considerable amount of property. This self-taught master carpenter began to shape his destiny by building multiple homes on his property and either renting or selling them. The street that bordered his property was even named “Lawrence Street” in his honor. Early each February, the historic property hosts the L.B. Brown Heritage Festival.
A product of segregation, Sarasota’s Newtown is now one of the liveliest neighborhoods to celebrate Black culture. Part of the Newtown Alive initiative, the Newtown Heritage Trail features 15 historic markers to honor African American pioneers who triumphed over oppression. A mix between a time capsule, museum and educational exhibit, the Greater Newtown Historical Gallery is bursting with the history of Newtown, from proclamations to family photos, artifacts, newspaper clippings and beyond.
At Stroke’s Seafood, serving lunch and dinner daily and breakfast on weekdays, enjoy classic seafood plates like shrimp, fish, mussels, crab and more alongside sides such as grits, fried okra, yellow rice, sausage and more. A staple of Newtown for decades, Town Hall Restaurant & Lounge on MLK Way serves diner-style items for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Pop on down to Miss Susie’s Newtown Kitchen’s delicious food truck, who recently partnered with Newtown Alive to serve the community and trolley guests for tasteful lunches following the Newtown Heritage Walk.
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is the only professional Black theater found on Florida’s west coast. The renowned WBTT develops and trains African American artists while providing an artistic voice to the Black experience.
THE PALM BEACHES
The Palm Beaches have ample opportunities to celebrate Black culture. The second annual Black History Youth Awareness Art Festival takes place this February 2023. The festival partners with The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, The Cultural Arts Performance & Education Mentoring (CAPE Universal) and other nonprofit organizations to host a community project aiming to engage Palm Beach County youth through art, music and Black history.
Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in Delray Beach is the only Palm Beach County museum dedicated to sharing the African, Haitian and Caribbean-American cultural contributions to Florida. Board the “Ride & Remember” Trolley Tour, where the history of Delray Beach comes alive through interactive, colorful stories of personalities in the city.
Sunset Lounge is coming back to West Palm Beach. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was a hub of African American performances during the Jim Crow Law period. A redesign of the ballroom, floating stage and third-floor mezzanine complete the celebrated site. The renovation is set to revive the historic Northwest district of West Palm Beach and establish long-term viability and economic stability.
Having a safe space to relive the frustration and anger built up from everyday life is imperative, and Owner, Jonah Jean, and the team at Outrageous Room (Rage Room) resonate with a “better out than in” motto. This dual-rage room and art studio outlet is dedicated to those who seek to break, smash and destroy junked items to their hearts’ content – all while supporting a Black-owned business.
Celebrate Black-owned businesses from breakfast to dinner. Blue Mountain Coffee House opened its doors in 2020 and exclusively serves internationally renowned Blue Mountain Coffee from Jamaica, with food by Allison Boettcher, originally from St. Andrew Parish in Jamaica. Ceasar’s World-Famous Ribs is an institution and was also one of the official Vendors for Super Bowl 2020. Majestic 7 Ash lounge and Southern Spice brings Southern-inspired ambiance with soul food and comfort food including fried chicken and red velvet waffles, crusted pecan salmon, oxtail and grits. McCray’s Backyard BBQ & Seafood defines ‘Floribbean’ (Florida & Caribbean) cuisine with an 86-year tradition of rib cooking, perfected through generations. Sharon Bedasee created FiWE Caribbean Cuisine, to celebrate island flavors like Jamaican Jerk chicken and curries, West Indian roti, Puerto Rican mofongo and browned snapper. Ganache Bakery brings Caribbean flair to the West Palm Beach scene with key lime tarts and delectable rum cakes. A Virgin Islands native, Owner, Jamal Lake, opened Ganache Bakery with his partner, Joan Lewis, and even hosts baking classes.
Taste History Culinary Tours are educational programs and immersive experiences focusing on emerging arts districts, multicultural history and food within Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth Beach and West Palm Beach. Tours feature a select restaurant amongst a list of partners for a multi-course and catered sit-down luncheon.
For details on other new accommodations, attractions, and events across the state that celebrate Black History Month this February 2023, check out VISIT FLORIDA.com.
ABOUT VISIT FLORIDA
VISIT FLORIDA is the Sunshine State’s official tourism marketing corporation and travel planning resource for visitors across the globe. As Florida’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming over 122 million visitors in 2021, an increase of 54 percent from 2020. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs, and serves more than 13,000 travel industry partners throughout the state. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, follow @FloridaTourism on Facebook and Twitter, or go to visitflorida.org. For inspiration in the Sunshine State follow @VISITFLORIDA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.visitflorida.com. For media resources, visit www.visitfloridamedia.com.