ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida is home to dozens of African American museums and state lawmakers say they realized those museums could use some financial help.
What You Need To Know
- Florida to receive $30 million in funding for African American museums
- The funding would help the Woodson Museum in St. Pete reach their $26 million goal
- The Woodson Museum is working to build a brand new museum
- The money is meant to help established museums. To apply contact, https://dos.myflorida.com/cultural/grants/
With help from Senator Rudolph Bracey, Senator Daryl Rouson secured $30 million in funding for African American museums in the state.
“They can receive an outright grant up to 500 thousand dollars or up to one million dollars by showing a 50 percent match. So it’s significant funding. $500 thousand is a great shot in the arm for a lot of institutions that have been struggling to find adequate funding to tell the story of African American history,” Rouson said.
That funding is part of federal money sent to the state according to Rouson. “They affectionately refer to them as Biden bucks. It was $10 billion extra that we had to spend that created the largest budget in the history of the state of Florida,” he said. “$102 billion. So many of these dollars did come from that.”
That money would bring the newly renamed Woodson Museum closer to their $26 million goal to build a brand new museum.
“I like to affectionately call this project the Smithsonian of the South,” Woodson Museum Executive Director Terri Lipsy Scott said. “There are countless African American museums here in the state of Florida and sadly enough, not one of them have been constructed for being a proper African American museum. And with that we’re excited here at the Woodson to be at the ground level of constructing Florida’s first African American museum.
And while their location next to Jordan Park is historic, Lipsey Scott said the potential for the museum is not even close to where it could be. That’s why she has been fighting for years for more funding. Now it’s paying off. They just received a land donation from the city of St. Pete along with a million dollars.
“We thought it critically important that we station ourselves. We stake a claim along 22nd Street, which is affectionately known as the deuces, where the heartbeat of the African American history and culture resided,” Lipsey Scott said.
It’s a good start but that’s just a drop in the bucket for what they need to make their renderings a reality.
It’s a tall task. Something Chairwoman Carolyn Collins of the Jackson House foundation Inc in Tampa is familiar with.
“Have we had some draw backs? Yes. We’ve had some people saying I don’t want my money going into that. But those are people who don’t know history and don’t understand it,” Collins said.
Collins pointed out that saving the Jackson House is the key to changing that kind of thinking.
“Look around here. Is there anything that you see other than the Jackson house that was sitting here in 1950, 1960, 1920, 1900? No,” said Collins. “This is apart of Tampa’s history. This is a part of Hillsborough County’s history. This is a part of Florida’s history and more importantly, it’s a significant part of African American history and heritage. We can’t let it go.”
That’s the promise Collins made to Willie Robinson before his death a few years ago.
“You could not talk to Willie without talking about the Jackson House. A lot of time people say where do you get the energy and where do you get your success from? From Willie and his mother,” Collins said.
Robinson’s family owned the Jackson House which was a boarding house that Nat King Cole slept in, artists like James Brown made music and black travelers laid their heads because they weren’t allowed to stay in downtown hotels.
“They had the house that provided not just rooms but meals. They also had a laundry center that did the laundry for all of the individuals who came here to stay here. They had a taxi service. His dad was a barber,” she said.
Like the Woodson, the African American history here is rich but to restore it will cost a pretty penny. We’re talking more than two million dollars.
“We’ve actually taken an image of everything in that house down to the nuts and the bolts. We went in and tagged everything that we wanted to keep. Things have been taken out and carried away for storage,” Collins said. “Chimney has been brought down saving the bricks, the walls on the inside where Willie Robinson’s granddaddy did one wall and they finger painted it. We’ve got sections of those walls so that they can be replenished.”
The Jackson House received funding from the county, city and the state so far. They said their largest donor so far has been Tampa Bay Lightning owner, Jeff Vinik. He donated a million dollars to go towards the restoration. Now with this new funding available the Collins said Jackson House is planning to apply to meet their goal.
“We are ready to apply for it and we really feel that we will be successful,” she said.
That potential million-dollar donation could also put a dent in the Woodson’s $26 million goal.
“We are ecstatic about the opportunity to apply and we’re ready to push the enter button,” Lipsey Scott said.
Senator Rouson says the funding is aimed at helping established museums. To apply contact, https://dos.myflorida.com/cultural/grants/.