TAMPA, Fla. - The story of our area’s African American community is a story of Travails and Triumphs.
That’s the name of the new permanent exhibit on African American History at the Tampa Bay History Center.
It spans 500 years of history, from when the first enslaved people arrived to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020.
More recent historical events like Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020 are featured in the exhibit.
In between, it tells stories of segregated schools and battles for fair employment.
One exhibit features 1960’s letter jackets from two of Tampa’s segregated Black high schools, Blake and Middleton. The Middleton jacket belonged to Fred Hearns.
"Those two jackets represent some really, really great memories," explained Hearns. "Even though it was during the days of segregation and Jim Crowe, we took lemons and made lemonade out of them."
Memorabilia from segregated Black schools is also on display.
Hearns is the curator of African American History at this history center on Water Street in Downtown Tampa. It’s not far from the port where African American Longshoremen forced change through their hard work and the influence of their union.
"The longshoremen represented the beginning of the Black middle class in Tampa," shared Hearns. "They were some of the best-paying jobs that Black men could get then."
The exhibit is divided into five parts with interactive components.
The history center features a display specifically highlighting Black women in the 19th century.
"For example, on stop three, you get a history of Black women in 19th century Tampa. So not only do you see physical objects, but there’s also digital at all the five stops within the exhibit," said curator Brad Massey.
They’re still searching for more photos and artifacts to help tell the story. The Tampa Bay History Center asked anyone with items to donate to reach out.
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