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StoryCorps Tampa Bay: Remembering a lost piece of local Black history

Sartura Smith (left) and her friend Tammi Stackhouse.
Courtesy: StoryCorps
Sartura Smith (left) and her friend Tammi Stackhouse.

Sartura Smith shares her memories of growing up during segregation in Tampa’s Central Avenue District.

Tammi Stackhouse speaks with her friend Sartura Smith. Smith, a lifelong Tampa resident, shares her memories of growing up in Tampa’s Central Avenue District during segregation. Although the area is no longer there, Smith's memories of the sights, sounds and smells remain strong.

"My fond memories, and ALL of my memories, are of places and times that no longer exist," Smith said. "I grew up in that pre-civil rights and post-civil rights era."

Smith's parents were business owners in Tampa's Central Avenue District. The area, which no longer exists, consisted of several blocks made up of Black-owned businesses. During this time, Black people were not allowed to shop in Tampa's downtown area, which was whites only.

"It sounds like a little Harlem," Stackhouse said.

The Central Avenue District burned down after a riot when police gunned down a Black boy accused of petty theft. Soon after, the area was desegregated, but the Central Avenue District never returned and many Black-owned businesses never reopened.

"I do appreciate and respect, and admire those who have kept the Central Avenue dream alive," Smith said. "That was part of my culture. That was part of me."

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