St. Johns County and Daytona Beach Among Cities Vying to Land Florida Museum of Black History
If the number of cities competing to be the home of the Florida Museum of Black History is an indication, the cultural landmark will be one of the state’s most popular destinations.
More than a dozen communities from across the Sunshine State – including St. Augustine and Daytona Beach – made presentations to the Florida Museum of Black History Task Force in late 2023 to be the home of the museum.
The project to create a museum celebrating Florida’s Black history comes from a bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May of last year and includes the selection of a nine-member Task Force appointed by DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner. The members include EVOLVE News publisher Howard Holley.
“I was honored to be selected by Speaker Renner to serve,” Holley said. When you look at the bill that authorized the Florida Museum of Black History Task Force, it is very impressive in its vision for the museum. It’s also a great American history story. Black History, to include African, Caribbean and African-American history, is clearly a major part of Florida’s history. History is history!”
The Task Force is charged with providing recommendations for the planning, construction, operation and administration of the Museum. According to the legislation signed by DeSantis, the Museum is to be “a multipurpose facility capable of generating self-sustaining revenues, with archival research and storage facilities, meeting rooms, a full-service banquet facility and a performing arts center.” The Task Force is required to file its final report by July 1.
The public can also participate in the process through an online survey, according to a media release from Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd.
“Public input is needed in developing recommendations for a future Florida Museum of Black History,” Byrd said in the release. “I encourage Floridians to take the time to complete and share the short survey and join in the effort to create recommendations that the Department of State will submit to the Florida Legislature.”
The public survey is available online through Feb. 29. Responses received from the public will be included in the Task Force’s report to the Florida Legislature.
The bill creating the Museum was sponsored by Orlando Democrat Bruce Antone, who spoke at the Task Force’s October meeting.
“In my vision for this museum I hope we come up with something that is beautiful,” he said. “The theme that I came up with is that we remember the past. This is really an American history museum, a Florida history museum, but all of this at the end of the day is American history.”
Making the pitch for Daytona Beach, City Manager Deric Feacher said the idea of a Museum of Black History was particularly exciting for him as a grad of Bethune-Cookman University.
“Daytona Beach has always been a place where history is made and dreams become a reality,” he said to the Task Force. “We believe choosing our city is the right choice for this contribution to the people and visitors of the great State of Florida.”
Feacher said he is ready to get things moving on the project.
“I am ready as chief administrative officer of this city to ask our elected officials to fund a feasibility study to make sure that this is the right place,” he said. “Also to donate city land so the Task Force will have that off their plate.”
Lori Campbell Baker, executive director of the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city’s reputation as a tourist destination makes it a prime location for the Museum.
“With its rich history and plentiful cultural assets, we believe that Daytona Beach will be a perfect location for the new Florida Museum of Black History,” she said in an interview with EVOLVE News. “In 2022 alone, Volusia County welcomed more than 10.5 million overnight visitors, who spent $5.7 billion in our local businesses. We know that many of these annual visitors love to explore the area’s vast arts and cultural offerings and we look forward to adding the Florida Museum of Black History to our growing list.”
St. Johns County Administrator Joy Andrews made the case for St. Augustine, telling Task Force members the Museum would be an important addition to the area’s rich African-American history.
“We are humbly before you to champion a narrative deeply woven into the very fabric of our county and our state of Florida’s identity,” she said. “The profound and enduring tapestry of Black history in the region of the First Coast and St. Augustine is a cornerstone of our history and our story.”
Greg White, president of the West Augustine Historical Community Development Corp., also spoke on behalf of St. Augustine’s bid, along with Thomas Jackson, president of the St. Augustine Historical Society.
“We have so much rich history here,” Jackson said. “We have the place where the Black history museum naturally should be.”
In an interview with EVOLVE News, Tera Meeks, St. Johns County Tourism and Cultural Development Director, said the Florida Museum of Black History would be “a near seamless fit in St. Johns County” and the St. Augustine location “would certainly provide a cohesive, central location to tie together the many Black history stories and experiences the greater area has to offer.”
St. Johns County Commission Chair Sarah Arnold told the Task Force the county is fully behind the effort to bring the Museum to St. Augustine.
“Our board is in full support of this project and is committed to any and all resources to make this happen,” she said.
The St. Augustine bid also received support from the city of Palm Coast in Flagler County.
In a letter to the Task Force, Mayor David Alfin touted the tourism development opportunities the Museum would provide to the region.
“Tourism is one of the primary economic drivers across Northeast Florida, and St. Johns County is centrally located on the First Coast,” he wrote. “The central location and easy access of St. Johns County would also allow for the regional stories of the area to be shared in a manner that encourages visitors to the Museum to explore Black history sites in the neighboring cities and counties, like the city of Palm Coast.”
Remembrance of Things Past
Cities in Volusia and St. Johns counties are among a dozen communities across the Sunshine Staste vying to be the home of the Florida Museum of Black History. A Task Force appointed by top elected officials will make recommendations by July 1.
The communities submitting presentations are:
Nassau County/Amelia Island
Panama City Beach
St. Johns County/St. Augustine