Hillsborough discusses possibility of African American museum

- There was a time when local classrooms were black or white. It was segregation and it's part of our history.

Hillsborough County commissioners hope a new museum or cultural center will help tell the story and history of local African Americans.

Commissioners Les Miller and Victor Crist introduced separate motions directing county staff to look into the feasibility of a museum. 

County Commission unanimously agreed to the motions, paving the way for a possible plan to form.

"We want to try to create a sensible initiative that the private sector can jump in and be supportive of," said Crist.

He suggested that such a museum could draw tourists to Tampa.

"I think if we get the right posture and the right museum, tourism will come," said Miller.

Tampa had a small African American museum in the 1990s, but it folded after the curator passed away.

"We want to showcase the whole story of who we are as a community, where we've come from, and where we're headed," said Crist.

The area's African American history spans generations, from early slaves to a music scene that included Tampa Red and Ray Charles, and a sit-in by high school students at a downtown lunch counter to protest segregation. 

And the history is still being written. Wednesday, commissioners approved changing the name of Uncle Tom Road in east Hillsborough County, to Tom Road.

This weekend, Tampa's Laurel Street Bridge will be renamed Fortune Taylor Bridge, in honor of a female African American pioneer in Tampa. 

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