This month’s spotlight shines on a little known non-profit – the African-American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg.
In 2013 the City of St. Petersburg received a $50,000 grant from the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources to fund the African-American Heritage Trail project. A steering committee was formed composed of community members, historians and other specialists from local educational and cultural institutions, all of whom had a special interest in African-American history.
The City and Steering Committee held a number of outreach meetings to solicit nominations and historic materials for the creation of the trails. These meetings were instrumental in gathering information and conducting oral interviews. A “Friends of the Trail” organization formed to assist in the research of potential sites.
The Steering Committee chose trail stops that convey African-American history and culture in St. Petersburg in a national context. Through this project, the Steering Committee and the “Friends of the Trail” organization merged in 2014 to form the non-profit African-American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, Inc.
The 22nd Street South Heritage Trail: Focuses on the commercial corridor of 22nd Street S. and includes local businesses, such as Harden’s Grocery and the Sno-Peak Drive In, as well as local entertainment facilities like the Royal Theatre and the Manhattan Casino, which brought in nationally accredited jazz and Gospel musicians including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, James Brown, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Mahalia Jackson just to name a few.
The 22nd Street South rail also features Mercy Hospital, one of the first African-American hospitals in the area, and a number of medical offices built and occupied by doctors who played a significant role in breaking the color barrier and promoting the Civil Rights Movement in St. Petersburg. The 22nd Street Trail is approximately 1.25 miles and includes 10 trail stops.
The 9th Avenue South Heritage Trail: Focuses on the educational and religious institutions of the neighborhood that centered along 9th Avenue South. With nine historic African-American churches along the trail, 9th Avenue South served as the religious center of the community.
In addition to these churches, stops include the recently restored Jordan Elementary School, the oldest remaining historic African-American school in the city. Other sites along the trail include civic clubs such as the Fannye Ayer Ponder Council House and the Pallbearer’s Hall, as well as Happy Worker’s Day Nursery. This trail is approximately 1.25 miles long with 10 trail stops.
To learn more: www.stpete.org