In 1926 Dr. Francis Cooper, celebrated historian, author, journalist, and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, had the idea of combining two birthdays already widely celebrated among black Americans — Feb. 12 for President Abraham Lincoln and Feb. 14 for abolitionist Frederick Douglass — into Negro History Week to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to history. In 1976 President Gerald Ford declared Negro History Week – “Black History Month”.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Born in rural Virginia during the Reconstruction period, Carter Woodsen was one of nine children born to formerly enslaved parents. At age 20 he was able start to high school. As he advanced through collegiate studies, earning two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s and a doctorate, he saw that blacks, classified as Negros in the 1900 census, were not included in the history books. Woodson began to worry that black culture was being ignored or misrepresented. He was determined to convince the general public to embrace the past, including the dark chapters on slavery and segregation, so the African American experience would take its rightful place in history books.
“We should emphasize not Negro history, but the Negro in history,” Woodson said. “What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate and religious prejudice.”
St. Petersburg’s Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum
Located 2240 9th Avenue S, the Woodson Museum serves to preserve the rich history of African Americans in the St. Petersburg community and the crucial role they played in the growth and development of it since the late 1880s.
The first African Americans came to the area seeking work. Many of the early migrants worked on the Orange Belt Railroad (completed in 1888 and later known as the Sanford & St. Petersburg Railroad) and other emerging enterprises. As St. Petersburg grew into a major tourist destination, more employment opportunities opened for these early residents. Settling near the downtown area to be near jobs and the railroad, African Americans established neighborhoods and the community grew, establishing independent institutions. In spite of segregation and discrimination, the area thrived culturally.
Plans to build a new museum in The Deuces district
In February 2021, the city of St. Petersburg completed its $1 million pledge, and in October 2021, the Pinellas Community Foundation announced it will help raise $27 million needed to build and operate the new 30,000-square-foot facility. It will be the first newly constructed landmark museum in the State of Florida built exclusively to celebrate African American history, art and culture.
Photo courtesy Huff Gooden and WJ Architects
The 5.5-acre lot was donated by the city and will allow the museum to become a cultural and artistic destination for locals and visitors alike. Its new name – The Woodsen African American Museum of Florida.
As an anchor for The Deuces, the museum will help to further spark and inspire the revitalization of one of St. Pete’s most historic neighborhoods – a place that was once “the heart of a vibrant and prosperous African American community during the time of segregation, where Black businesses, homes, and entertainment thrived.”
To learn more about the museum, to volunteer or donate, visit their website: https://woodsonmuseum.org/
A must read for more information on The Deuces is St. Petersburg’s Historic 22nd Street South, by Rosalie Peck and Jon Wilson that tells the story of this unique district and how its people and events contributed to and helped to shape the history of St. Petersburg in the context of the greater South and the Civil Rights Movement.
Great Reads for Black History Month
Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X
Letter from a Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King
The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
Native Son, by Richard Wright
Carter G. Woodson: History, the Black Press and Public Relations, by Burnis Morris
St. Petersburg Communities
If you’re interested in any of these of communities or live in one of them and are thinking of selling, call Estelia today at 727.686.2859
Greater Pinellas Point
Historic Old Northeast
Historic Roser Park
Isla del Sol