Tampa’s newest Black history exhibit dives into city’s long history

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After an eight-week renovation, the Tampa Bay History Center opened a new permanent Black history exhibit.

Donated pieces telling the story of Tampa’s black history//Credit Chris Young

The exhibit is titled “Travails and Triumphs” and features stories from Africans who traveled to Florida in the 1500s, documents from slaves and the civil war, and artifacts of African American history in Florida.

Community leaders, including County Commissioner Gwen Meyers, participated in a ribbon cutting at the History Center.

“You’re inviting the community to come and see the rich history of African Americans and how we contributed to this community.”

The goal was to display the full Black experience, according to Brad Massey, curator at the History Center.

“We wanted to tell a 500-year story of the Black experience here in the Tampa Bay area. So instead of focusing just on maybe the Civil Rights era or the 20th Century, we tell a history that stretches from the 1500s all the way to today.”

The exhibit features events up through the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Cynthia Woodbury and her mother waited eagerly outside the museum to see the exhibit. She’s been in Tampa since the 60s, and values African American history.

Signs used during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 // Chris Young 6/19/23

“They give us knowledge of our past, too, because if we don’t know our past, we don’t know how to govern our future.”

The exhibit anchors the History Center’s third-floor galleries on Water Street in downtown Tampa.