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Tampa Announces Establishment of Black History Museum in Encore District



Black History Museum in Encore District Tampa

Tampa will soon host its first Black History Museum in the heart of what was once the city’s oldest and most densely populated Black neighborhood.

On Monday, the Tampa Housing Authority and the Tampa Bay History Center announced their partnership to establish this museum in a historic church in the Encore district, following years of renovation efforts.

The former St. James Episcopal Church, founded in 1921, is one of only a few remaining structures from the Scrub neighborhood, which included the vibrant Central Park entertainment district. This area was condemned to make way for highways and public housing during the urban renewal era. “One of the benefits of looking back into our history is to remember the lessons of the mistakes made so that we don’t make those mistakes again,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said during the celebration of the new museum.

Councilmember Gwen Henderson highlighted that the new museum will join several nearby spaces, such as Perry Harvey Sr. Park and Kid Mason Community Center, that honor the past. “I can see this being a gathering space,” said Henderson, who owns the Black English Bookstore less than a mile northeast of the historic church. “[It can also] be a destination not only for local residents but for visitors to Tampa, where we create opportunities through the Downtown Partnership and other collaborations to showcase our rich history and progress. We’ve moved past the time when city council called this [neighborhood] a cancerous eyesore.”

The announcement coincided with Juneteenth week. Although no opening date for the museum has been set, the church has already hosted numerous programs celebrating Black history.

The Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Redevelopment Corp. collaborated to develop Encore, a 40-acre community just north of downtown. This area includes affordable and market-rate residential units, with the first apartment complex opening in 2012. “Our partnership with the Tampa Bay History Center demonstrates our joint commitment to preserving diverse histories, which is essential for fostering strong communities,” said Jerome Ryans, president and CEO of the Tampa Housing Authority. “Honoring and sharing Tampa’s Black heritage celebrates the past and inspires future generations to appreciate and uphold the vibrant cultural diversity that makes Tampa unique.”

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