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Black Heritage Travel: Florida
"Been There!" = Personal notes about places I've visited.

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African American Heritage Trail

"From the earliest days of territorial exploration in the 16th century, right up to the present day, Florida's African American heritage has been a vital part of the great struggle for dignity and equality. Florida nurtured the passionate determination and courage of leaders like Mary McLeod Bethune and A. Phillip Randolph. It gave rise to great institutions of learning and unique African American achievement in the arts, sciences, athletics and entrepreneurship. Experience a few highlights of Florida's African American heritage during this three-day odyssey along Florida's East Coast and into Central Florida."

The tour begins in Daytona Beach, and ends in Fort Pierce. Along the way you'll visit Bethune-Cookman College, The Black Heritage Museum, the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts in Eatonville (the first all-black community incorporated in America), and view works by the renowned group self-taught painters known as The Highwaymen. The tour includes historic sites, monuments, colleges and museums. You will also find lodging, dining and other attractions information.

Must-Sees for African American History and Culture

This article highlights important sites and attractions, both historic and contemporary, grouped by North, Centeral and Southern Florida. It includes American Beach (Amelia Island), Jackie Robinson Ballpark (Daytona Beach) and the Parramore District (Orlando.)

Daytona Beach - Bethune Foundation and Home

The home of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune is located on the campus of the College she founded in 1904 with an investment of $1.50 and a student enrollment of 5. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places as well as a United Methodist Historic Site, the home is filled with priceless artifacts, memorabilia and period furnishings. Upon her death in 1955, Dr. Bethune was laid to rest in a simple gravesite located behind the home. " You can take a virtual tour online, or get information about visiting in person.

DeLand - African American Museum of Arts

Founded in 1994, the AAMA is the only museum in the area devoted primarily to African American cultures and art. It houses a revolving gallery where visitors will find works of both established and emerging artists. The museum is also the home to a permanent collection of more than 150 artifacts, including sculptures and masks from countries of Africa. An amphitheater and cultural park were opened in 2003.

Eatonville Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts Zora Neale Hurston Festival

The Museum's home is in a modest store front on busy Kennedy Boulevard. The exterior is faded and run down, and only a glimmer of its once-vibrant nouveau exterior is noticeable. Inside, you'll find displayed some of the most noted African-American art of the past and present. It is also home to the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, which receives national attention.The festival is held annually the last week in March. At the moment, the museum itself doesn't have a website, so the link above takes you to the Festival website. For visiting hours and other information, it's best to call the Museum at 407-647-3307. If you visit, be sure to ask for a walking tour brochure for Historic Eatonville.

Fort Lauderdale - African American Research Library and Cultural Center

A general-service library, as well as a research facility and cultural center containing more than 75,000 books and related materials that focus on the experiences of people of African descent. Resources include literary collections of African-American authors, books and artifacts from Africa, the Caribbean, and North and South America, exhibits, seminars and special events, including The Pan African Bookfest, Jazzteenth and Kwanzaa and resources for information on local history. You can take a tour online, download a Fact Sheet, learn about special events and more.

Fort Lauderdale - The Old Dillard Museum Broward County Cultural Division

Owned by Broward County Public Schools and governed by the Old Dillard Foundation Board of Trustees, the museum (a former High School) features exhibits focused on Black history in Broward County and serves as a center for cultural events. In February, 1991, the museum was placed on the National Historic Register. For more information, use the link above then search "Old Dillard."

Fort Pierce - Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail - St. Lucie County Library System

This project, dedicated in 2004, chronologically represents Ms. Hurston's impact on St. Lucie County using kiosks and trail markers. You can also take a virtual tour online.

Jacksonville - Jacksonville & the Beaches Multicultural Heritage Trail Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau

This travel itinerary includes contact and background information on Centennial Hall, the Masonic Temple, and the Fire Museum, housed in the station that was manned primarily by black. The website includes lodging, dining and attractions information, and you can download a free 24-page booklet called Passages: A Multicultural Guide and Planner which provides a historic timeline, information about festivals, shopping, dining lodging, meeting facilities

Jacksonville - Kingslely Plantation Fort George Island

The plantation was named for one of several plantation owners, Zephaniah Kingsley, who operated the property from 1813-1839. Purchased as a slave, Kingsley's wife, Anna Madgigine Jai, was freed in 1811. She was active in plantation management and became a successful business woman owning her own property and her own slaves. The historic site, administered by the National Park Service, is on about 25 acres of mostly open land, and includes the plantation house, a kitchen house, a barn, and the ruins of 25 of the original slave cabins.. For much more information see Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Owner. University Press of Florida, 2003.

Olustee - Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park - (50 miles west of Jacksonville)

"This park commemorates the site of Florida's largest Civil War battle, which took place February 20, 1864. More than 10,000 cavalry, infantry, and artillery troops fought a five-hour battle in a pine forest near Olustee. Three U.S. Colored Troops took part in the battle, including the now famous 54th Massachusetts."

"The park was selected as a recipient of the 2003 Congressional Black Caucus Veterans' Braintrust Award. The award, established by General Colin Powell in 1990, recognizes outstanding national and community commitment to African American veterans.The selection was based on the historical significance of the 1864 Civil War battle in which three African American units fought as part of the Union Army. The award also recognizes the hundreds of African American Civil War reenactors who have paid tribute to the black regiments by participating in the annual reenactment of the Battle of Olustee."

Olustee Battlefield is located on U.S. 90, 15 miles east of Lake City and 50 miles west of Jacksonville. The Interpretive Center is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. All facilities are available free of charge.

Orlando Wells' Built Museum of African American Heritage

Dr. William Monroe Wells, one of Orlando's first black physicians, came to the area in 1917 . Dr. Wells erected the Wells' Built Hotel to provide lodging to African Americans during an era of segregation when accommodations were not available to them in other areas of Central Florida. He also built a casino which housed a basketball court and skating rink for the youth during the day, and served as an entertainment hall for adults in the evening.

Currently, the museum features over 6,000 square feet of display space. It retains the original hotel facade, a guestroom featuring authentic furniture, beading and decorations of the 1930's, and also bears an original interior wall reflecting important architectural elements and designs unique to the period. Exhibition material collected for display include: official hotel documents, an original Negro League baseball jersey, photographs, artifacts, books, multi-media exhibits, slave records and other items of historic significance.

The website offers tourist information, historical information and a music video featuring some of the performers who appeared at the casino, including Ray Charles, B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Guitar Slim and Bo Diddley.

St. Augustine (near) - Fort Mose

Founded by the Spanish, Fort Mose (Mo-say') was North America's first free legally sanctioned Black community. The state of Florida was able to acquire the 24-acre site and now administers it through Anastasia State Recreation Area. In 1994 Fort Mose was designated a National Historic Landmark. Since it is located in the marsh, there is presently no public access to the actual site of the fort. However, there is a covered picnic pavilion, a boardwalk, and a bronze plaque located on Saratoga Street off US 1 North. The state hopes eventually to acquire more land and construct a museum and cultural center there. For more information, contact Anastasia State Recreation Area.

St. Petersburg - Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum

Named for the eminent historian who launched Black History Month, the museum seeks to preserve, present and interpret the heritage of African Americans in the St. Petersburg area. At the website you'll find exhibit information, educational offerings available through the museum, and a section called "Local Legends" which invites you to submit your own nominations.

St. Petersburg - Science Center of Pinellas County

Six exhibit cases are filled with artifacts and literature on African American contributions to science. Topics featured vary from 17th century pottery made by Colonial slaves to profiles on NASA astronauts.

The Golden Cresent - National Park Service

"On isolated coastal plantations, enslaved blacks created the unique Gullah culture, based on mixed European and African elements. At the center of Gullah culture was the Gullah language, which drew most of its vocabulary from English and its grammar from West African languages. Other aspects of Gullah culture included musical and dance styles of African origin and a Christianity infused with African spirituality and emotionalism. African storytelling traditions survived in tales of "Brer Rabbit" and "Brer Bear," tales in which the weak often outsmarted the strong. Features of this rich cultural heritage survive in many crescent communities."

Tallahassee - John G. Riley Center/ Museum of African American History & Culture - Tallahassee

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the area just east of downtown Tallahassee and west of Myers Park Drive was an African American community called Smokey Hollow. In 1978, through the efforts of local preservationists, the Riley House became the second house in Florida owned by a black person to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places (the first being the Mary McLeod Bethune house in Volusia County.) In 1995, a group of Tallahassee citizens established a museum at the Riley House dedicated to African-American history and culture.

At this rich website, in addition to visitor information, you'll find a guide to Tallahassee's African American Heritage, Landmarks and Legacies, exhibits, a calendar of events, and links to articles and more information about Florida's African American history and preservation.

Additional Resources

Florida Black Heritage Trail. John G. Riley Center/Museum for African-American History and Culture Ordering information

The 34-page Florida Black Heritage Trail contains descriptions of more than 200 places important to the history of Florida, profiles of noteworthy African Americans, and a guide to festivals throughout the state. It also includes four self-guided driving tours and features vivid color photographs.

Sites in the book include Eatonville, the country's oldest black municipality and home of noted writer Zora Neale Hurston; the Julee Cottage Museum in Pensacola, home of Julee Panton, a "free woman of color" in the early 1800s; the Lincolnville Historic District in St. Augustine; the Black Archives Research Center and Museum at Florida A & M University; and American Beach, a predominantly black oceanfront resort established by Abraham Lincoln Lewis, who in the 1930s founded the Afro-American Insurance Company in Jacksonville.

An American Beach for African Americans. Marsha Dean Phelts. University Press of Florida. Order at

Traces the history of American Beach on Amelia Island outside of Jacksonville, Florida, where a thriving African American community has existed since the early twentieth century. More than a study of African American recreation, the book provides insight into the self-sufficient African American communities that were commonplace in the days of Jim Crow and their ultimate decline after desegregation. Emphasis is placed on the role of early "Black Bourgeoisie" leaders and entrepreneurs such as Abraham Lincoln Lewis, a founder of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, and the growth of the region in the post-World War 11 era.

Black Florida. Kevin M. McCarthy. Hippocrene Books, 1995. Order at

Gives brief historical accounts of towns and places.

Black Heritage Sites: The South. Nancy C. Curtis. New Press 1998 Order at

This volume includes descriptions and detailed visitor information for hundreds of places of national and local significance, from churches and schools to battlefields and cemeteries, from stops on the Underground Railroad to landmarks of the 1950s civil rights movement. Black Heritage Sites is perfect for travelers and historians of all kinds--from the family planning a cross-country trip to the armchair traveler interested in gaining a unique perspective on African American history.

African American Historic Places. Savage, Beth L. Wiley, 2005 Order at

Features 800 sites on the National Historic Register which relate to African American History. Organized by 41 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Because it is designed as an identification tool rather than as a trip planner, the book lists only addresses and does not note telephone numbers, access policies, or admission charges. The introduction, however, notes that approximately three-fourths of the properties are privately owned and not open to the public. Black-and-white photographs are provided for some of the sites, and eight introductory essays provide context for understanding the historical significance of the sites.

Historic Landmarks of Black America. Canter, George. Gale Group, 1991. Order at

Describes over 300 sites across the US and Canada, with entries ranging from a paragraph to several pages, with lots of illustrations. Each includes a historical sketch detailing the site's significance and practical information such as directions, hours, fees, and related sites....which of course you'd want to doublecheck before traveling! This book is out of print (and out of date) but still useful and available cheap through used booksellers at

In Their Footsteps: The American Visions Guide to African-American Historical Sites. Chase, Henry. Owlet, 1994. Order at

Similar to Canter's Historic Landmarks, but more comprehensive covering 46 states, Ontario and Nova Scotia. This book is out of print (and out of date) but still useful and available through used booksellers at

Hippocrene U.S.A. Guide to Historic Black South: Historical Sites, Cultural Centers, and Musical Happenings of the African-American South . James Haskins & Joann Biondi. Hippocrene Books 1993. Order at

Covers a region of nine Southern states and the District of Columbia, pointing out churches, gravesites, historic locations, nightclubs, museums, art galleries, schools, markets, and jazz and blues landmarks. We venture to Jackie Robinson Baseball Park in Daytona Beach, Florida, for example, where Robinson played his first major league game, and to the Alex Haley Home and Museum in Henning, Tennessee. Each chapter includes a brief section on the history of that state and then lists sites in the various cities.