African American history

Woman with search dog stands, speaking into microphones.
Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

Cadaver dogs and archaeologists began searching Tuesday for a lost cemetery that may be located in an area of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

It's the latest effort to find an unmarked, mainly African American burial ground, a number of which have been discovered recently throughout Florida. 

Tampa isn't the only place where long-lost African American graveyards have been found.

Although two have been discovered in the bay area, and more sites are being investigated, the problem has a national scope, says an expert in lost black burial grounds.

MacDill Air Force Base will start an investigation in January into reports that a lost African American cemetery could be inside its gates.

The Jackson Rooming House in Tampa is two stories, with peeling yellow and red paint. It's looks like it's falling apart.
Carl Lisciandrello/WUSF Public Media

The Vinik Family Foundation has committed up to $1 million to help restore Tampa's only African American boarding house during segregation.

Author Gilbert King talks to WUSF's Kerry Sheridan
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media

Author Gilbert King won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2013 book, "Devil In The Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America." His latest book, "Beneath A Ruthless Sun," also focuses on a true story of racial injustice in Florida in the 1950s.

The New York-based author is in St. Petersburg to talk about how writers can help awaken social justice. WUSF's Kerry Sheridan spoke with him about why these stories are important to tell.

Paul Guzzo in Tampa's Memorial Cemetery
James Borchuck/Tampa Bay Times

Last fall, a cemetery historian came upon a few death certificates from a little-known Tampa burial ground called Zion and he wanted help to learn more about it.

Tampa Bay Times journalist Paul Guzzo took the story on, and after nine months of research, he discovered that no one really knows what happened to hundreds of bodies that were buried in Tampa's first African American cemetery.

The Newton Historic Building Preservation Pilot Program started with the intention of restoring, rehabilitating and renovating properties in the 100-year-old African American enclave.
Newtown Alive

The city of Sarasota is taking a stand for its African American community of Newtown by launching a program to preserve its historic properties.

Vickie Oldham / Newtown Alive

Sarasota’s first African-American community, Overtown, will be in the spotlight during a Newtown History Makers panel next week.

Local Groups Celebrate Juneteenth

Jun 20, 2017

Across the nation, African-Americans are celebrating Juneteenth – June 19th - as the day the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Texas, making it the last state to read the document to slaves.

Ellery Butler

During an event billed as a “Call to Assemble,” about 100 people gathered at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum to voice their opposition to a January 22nd decision by the St. Petersburg Housing Authority to sell the property.

That decision brought condemnation from throughout the historic neighborhood and from city leaders who support the current location.

St Petersburg's only African-American history museum may be getting the boot. On Thursday, the St. Petersburg Housing Authority voted 4-3 to sell its property where the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum currently sits.

City Councilman Karl Nurse said city attorneys will determine if  the housing authority has the ultimate say in what happens to the property. The museum has been on that site for 14 years as part of the Jordan Park housing project.

StoryCorps Tampa Bay: Making Tough Decisions

Jan 19, 2015

Pat Spencer grew up in Montgomery, Alabama before settling in Tampa. She has been an active member of the NAACP since she was seven years old and has always been a volunteer for various organizations. 


In this installment of StoryCorps Tampa Bay, Spencer talks about her time volunteering in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s office in Montgomery. During the time Arthurine Lucy became the first African-American to desegregate the University of Alabama, Dr. King requested Spencer enroll too.



In this installment of StoryCorps Tampa Bay, 23-year-old Kalima Haneef remembers her grandmother, Najiyyah Shaheed, with her uncle Shalaby Shaheed. 

Her grandmother went from dropping out of school at a young age to pick cotton in order to survive, to being the business owner of Shaheed’s African and Islamic Wear in St. Petersburg. She passed away in 2005 but she remains alive in her family’s hearts.

Kalima and Shalaby talk about Najiyyah Shaheed’s love for fashion, her African and Muslim culture, and the love she shared with those nearest her.

The HistoryMakers

Poet Maya Angelou, actress Ruby Dee and even President Barack Obama have something in common. They've all participated in The History Makers project--the country's largest African American collection of video interviews capturing the struggles and achievements of the black experience.Those 2,600 HistoryMakers videos have a new home--the Library of Congress.

It was 1985 when Henrietta Smith was the first African-American faculty member at the University of South Florida at the School of Library Science.  

Bomba Music Transcends Barriers

Apr 2, 2014
Bomba en Tampa

A Tampa musical group is premiering a short film Saturday about the music they make and the culture it represents. They play bomba, Puerto Rican folk music with more than four centuries worth of history. Bomba may be from a small island but it transcends national barriers.

Goat-skin barrel drums, a large maraca, and sticks called los cuá are the instruments that make up bomba. It's Puerto Rican folk music, born in Spanish colonial times from rhythms of African slaves.

Robin Sussingham

A piece of history from Bartow will be included in the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

The museum recently acquired a foundation stone bearing the initials of builder L.B. Brown, a former slave who built scores of homes during Bartow's early years. Museum officials see Brown as an example of the often overlooked contributions to America's growth by pioneering African Americans.

Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

The city of Tampa has been planning a redevelopment of Perry Harvey Sr. Park for years. In the same park sits a 35-year-old skate bowl, which recently made it on the National Register of Historic Places. Because the facelift would require federal money, the city has to plan how to take care of both the new park and figure out what to do with the Bro Bowl.

Jackson House to Be Put to the Wrecking Ball

Nov 20, 2013
WUSF/Yoselis Ramos

One of the last historic pieces from the time when Tampa's Central Avenue was a thriving hub of black-owned businesses will soon fall to the wrecking ball. Recent attempts to save the Jackson Boarding House have been futile.

Highwaymen Bring their Paintings to Sebring

Nov 7, 2013

In the 1950's, a group of African-Americans painted elaborate Florida natural landscapes they sold as an alternative to working in the fields.

Local galleries wouldn't show their paintings, so they took their art to the streets and sold them out of their car trunks to hotels, banks, and tourists.

They became known as the Highwaymen, and while their art then sold for about $25 a painting, some pieces are now worth hundreds if not thousands.

The Jackson House: Still an Unpolished Gem

Oct 13, 2013
WUSF/Yoselis Ramos

There have been a few projects geared to create a renaissance of the rich African-American history that is part of the bedrock of Tampa.

WUSF/Yoselis Ramos

Central Avenue was once the "Harlem of Tampa," where black-owned businesses flourished. The historic Jackson House – a boarding house – rented rooms to stars like Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway. Former Florida NAACP director, civil rights activist Robert W. Saunders was born and raised just around the corner.