Black History Museum Task Force Submits Final Report

Despite last-minute maneuvering by some members, the Florida Museum of Black History Task Force completed its work in late June and approved a report confirming St. Augustine/St. Johns County as its choice for the location of the proposed state facility.

In a near unanimous tally, with State Sen. Geraldine Thompson the lone dissenter, the Task Force voted to submit its final report to the Legislature and Governor’s Office by the July 1 deadline imposed by bill that created the advisory body.

“We did it,” St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners Chair Sarah Arnold said in a media release. “The St. Johns County community rallied together and displayed their determination to get this museum. It is a testament to the tenacity of our team and the public’s passion for the history of St. Augustine and the surrounding communities.”

According to the release, the project partners for St. Johns County’s proposal included the Florida Memorial Museum, West Augustine Community Redevelopment Area, Accord Civil Rights Museum, Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center, St. Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau, St. Johns Cultural Council and the City of St. Augustine.

In an interview with EVOLVE News regarding the St. Augustine/St. Johns County presentation to the task force in March, St. Johns County Tourism and Cultural Development Director Tera Meeks said the museum will have a significant economic and cultural impact.

“Tourism is one of the dominant industries in St. Johns County and history and culture are one of the areas strengths,” she said. “Much of the planning for future tourism development in the County focuses on historic and cultural assets, programs and opportunities. The Florida Museum of Black History is a project that fits very nicely in our community which has more than 35 sites of notable Black History and has completed a study defining what a successful local performing arts center would look like.


After a review of the draft report by John Grandage, assistant director of the Division of Historical Resources, highlighting changes to the document suggested by members, Thompson raised the issue of public responses to the survey released by the Task Force early in the process, questioning whether those responses were given any weight in the final decision regarding the museum’s location.

“We did give some weight to the survey for the content but no weight in regard to the location,” she said, citing the high number of responses indicating a preference for the Eatonville site for the museum.

Task Force member Howard Holley, who is also publisher of EVOLVE News, said the survey did not offer the public a range of choices for the location taken from communities that had indicated a desire to host the facility.

“Had we intended to use it that way, Ii believe we should have given the public 13 or 14 sites (that) had presented to us and allowed them to weigh those, but we did not,” he said.

A motion by Thompson to “receive” the report rather than adopt it, arguing the Task Force is “receiving the report and we are laying the issue on the table pending the results of a feasibility study” was met with resistance from the rest of the Task Force.

“This technically is saying we are not submitting anything,” said Task Force member Gayle Phillips. “(It is) trying to negate the vote of the Task Force.”

After Thompson’s motion failed, a motion to approve the report and submit it to the legislature for further action passed by a 6-1 vote.

With the submittal of the report, the Task Force’s 10 months of work comes to an end.

The project to create a museum celebrating Florida’s Black history comes from a bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May 2023 and included the selection of the nine-member Task Force appointed by DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner. The Task Force began meeting in September 2023 and initially 16 communities expressed interest in being home to the museum, including Daytona Beach. Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin was one of several officials offering support for the St. Augustine/St. Johns bid for the museum.

The Task Force recommendations will be considered by the Florida Legislature which will make a final decision on the museum location.