Preserving an African-American landmark

Terri Lipsey Scott, Chair of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum

 

Dear Editor:

The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum is requesting your support. is requesting your support. We are asking residents of this community and beyond to “Lift Every Voice Until Victory is Won.”

Recently, the Woodson requested the use of one of the most historic African-American sites in St. Petersburg, the Manhattan Casino. The reason for this request was two-fold: (1) to maintain the building as a historic African-American landmark, and (2) to be able to expand its offerings as a museum, cultural center and tourist destination.

However, the City of St. Petersburg has issued a Request For Proposal, despite the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum’s request to expand its offerings to the iconic Manhattan Casino. This open competition will give the building to the best proposal— being the highest bidder.

The Woodson is imploring this consideration that St. Petersburg’s assets should not be viewed wholly for monetary gain. Instead, certain iconic locations are held closely for the benefit of the community. This includes facilities such as the Mahaffey Theater, the Coliseum, Sunken Gardens, the port and other subsidized city-owned properties.

In the Sept. 29 edition of The Weekly Challenger it states: “Built in 1925, the Manhattan Casino was a showcase for local and national black artists performing in segregated St. Pete.  Greats such as James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Fats Domino and the Ink Spots graced the stage at this historic site.”

Such a historical landmark demands to maintain the history of its people.

The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum now urges its leadership to preserve St. Petersburg’s history and stand with the African-American community in celebrating its arts and cultural heritage.

For some time, the city has owed a substantial debt to the African-American community, and this is a significant and sensible opportunity to begin paying that debt while simultaneously preserving the history of the Manhattan Casino. Secondly, the Woodson requests to maintain the use of its current location as a cultural center for the extensive programming that is currently offered to residents of our community.

The Woodson has more than proved its stewardship and benefit. It has garnered the highest rankings of any museum in the city of St. Petersburg according to Google’s report of 4.9.  Facebook lists the Woodson Museum with a 4.8 ranking, tied with the Dali.

The Woodson is the only museum that charges no admission fee, but remains debt free. The museum has been run exclusively for the past 10 years without an executive director or full time staff, but is noted in a national publication as “One of 19 Must-See African American History Museums in the Nation.”

The Woodson’s Legacy Garden was previewed by historian John Hope Franklin, Jr. as inspiration for a garden at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. For all of these reasons, the Woodson entreats the City of St. Petersburg to carefully consider and respond to this petition.

To the people of St. Petersburg, join the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum in “staking our claim” this Friday evening, Oct.14 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Manhattan Casino, 642 22nd St. S, when the City of St. Petersburg will offer an open house for potential bidders.

Let’s rise up and demonstrate our claim to the Manhattan Casino.

Terri Lipsey Scott, Chair
Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum

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