EVENT INFORMATION: The Florida Holocaust Museum is pleased to present an original exhibition Beaches, Benches and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay. The exhibition opening reception will take place at the Museum on Saturday, September 7th at 7:00 p.m. and is free to the public, with reservation. The program will include a panel discussion about the history of Tampa Bay’s African American communities in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota. The discussion will be moderated by Judge Charles Williams and panelists will include Fred Hearns, formerly of Tampa, Gwendolyn Reese of St. Petersburg, and Victoria Oldham of Sarasota.
The focus of most Civil Rights history is written about places like Alabama and Mississippi, as if few challenges occurred elsewhere. Tampa Bay remained racially segregated at the dawn of the Civil Rights era and many local institutions and establishments held out on integration for several years after Brown v. the Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under “Jim Crow” every aspect of African American life in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and their surrounding cities was segregated. Restricted covenants were in place that segregated residential neighborhoods. African American children had to attend segregated schools that were under-funded and often in disrepair. Blacks could only be cared for at “Black only” hospitals, and other public and private establishments like restaurants and beaches were often segregated – if blacks were allowed in at all.
The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay may have had characteristics similar to other areas of the South, but its stories are its own. This exhibition will illuminate our region’s struggle with racial equality and shine a light on the local leaders who changed our cities.