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To celebrate Black History Month, we took a tour of what once was Tampa's 'Black Wall Street'

The Tampa Bay History Center is hosting walking tours and exhibits in February to commemorate Black History Month.

During Black History Month, the Tampa Bay History Center is holding tours throughout the month to share influences of Black history across the greater Tampa Bay region.

The first of these tours took place on Feb. 6 along Harrison Street near downtown Tampa.

Harlem Academy sign
Victoria Crosdale
WUSF Public Media
A sign marking the site of the historic Harlem Academy in downtown Tampa.

Fred Hearns, the museum's curator of Black history, led a group down three blocks of what used to be known as Tampa’s “Black Wall Street.”

“During the 1950s and '60’s, during the civil rights era, this is where the large meetings and rallies and gatherings were held," Hearns said. "The NAACP had an office just two blocks east of where we are.”

According to Hearns, the purpose of this tour and others like it is “to educate people" and "to expose them to local African American history that they may not be aware of — both people who grew up here, who’ve lived here for many years, as well as people who are new to the Tampa Bay area.”

READ MORE: See WUSF’s coverage on Black History

Listed as the Central Avenue West Walking Tour, Hearns guided the group to several African-American landmarks, including St. Paul's A.M.E. Church, Oaklawn Cemetery, and the Kid Mason Recreation Center.

St. Paul AME Church sign
Victoria Crosdale
WUSF Public Media
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church on Harrison St. in downtown Tampa.

“The tour is only three blocks, but in those three blocks, there are hundreds of interesting facts that we talk about,” Hearns said.

As someone who lived in Tampa at the time, Hearns was able to provide first-hand accounts of his experience during the civil rights movement, pointing to where rallies and protests were held as well as the location of a former NAACP office.

“African American history is American history; a lot of it, however, is not that well known to the general public," Hearns said. "So for people who may not have had the opportunity to read it in a book, they can get the information by joining the tours.”

There are several more tours taking place throughout February and March:

  • Feb. 15: African-American Artifacts of Tampa Bay
  • Feb. 16: Florida Conversations: African American Burial Grounds And Remembering Project
  • Feb. 26: Central Avenue East Walking Tour
  • Feb. 26: Living History Saturday: Buffalo Soldiers

To find out more, visit the Tampa Bay History Center website.

Fred Hearns talks to people on a tour with the Historic Harlem Academy/School sign next to him
Victoria Crosdale
WUSF Public Media
Fred Hearns, curator of Black history at the Tampa Bay History Center, talks during a walking tour through an historic Tampa neighborhood on Feb. 6, 2022.

I am the WUSF Rush Family Multimedia Intern for spring 2022.