The African American Heritage Trail moved into the 21st century

Gwendolyn Reese and Jon Wilson, president and vice president of the African American Heritage Association, respectively, presented a sneak preview of the African American Heritage Trail Digitization Project on Nov. 16

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Traversing a trail of Black historical and cultural landmarks and neighborhoods in St. Pete can soon be done without even stepping outside your home. Since the pandemic, in-person tours were canceled, but that didn’t stop the African American Heritage Association.

In partnership with the African American Heritage Association, Tombolo Books hosted the African American Heritage Trail Digitization Project Preview event on Nov. 16, also steamed virtually.

Gwendolyn Reese and John Wilson, president and vice president of the AAHA, respectively, presented a “sneak preview” of the digitized trail, which will be completed in December. Photos, documents, and moving stories from community members all went into creating this project, which has been years in the making.

“Our community is full of these incredible, rich, and robust stories,” Reese said, adding that “we’re moving into the 21st century” with the digitized trail.

Gwendolyn Reese and creative team member Nicole Slaughter Graham at the sneak preview of the African American Heritage Trail Digitization Project on Nov. 16.

Reese and Wilson handed out certificates of appreciation to those who shared priceless anecdotes and experiences for the trail through interviews.

Mayor Rick Kriseman was on hand, stating that the project of digitizing the trail “fits perfectly within our vision of who we want to be as a city.”

“The African American Heritage Trail is so important to our community because it tells the history and emphasizes the importance and the impact of the African-American community in and on our city,” he said, adding that by digitizing the trail, “we are preserving that message for generations to come.”

Through some of the short videos shown in Tombolo Books, the cultural significance of areas such as the Deuces and Jordan Park came alive through the interviews, pictures, and graphics. In these segments, community members also discussed the role schools, businesses, churches, hospitals, and community events played in the lives of African Americans living in St. Pete.

Sponsors of the project included the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, and Lorna Taylor, president and CEO of Premier Eye Care.

“African-American history and culture are an integral part of the ecosystem of our community,” Taylor said in a virtual call. “It’s essential that these stories are available for everyone to hear, celebrate, and take to heart.”

Once the project is complete, viewers can watch interviews by community members such as Paul Stewart, Lucinda Grant, Mattie Bennett, Thelma Bruce, Betty Harden, and so many more.

Visit TheWeeklyChallenger.com for a sneak peek of a few of the videos.

Video/creative team

Nicole Slaughter Graham

Boyzell Hosey

Chris Zuppa

 

Project sponsors

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete

The Florida Holocaust Museum

Lorna Taylor/Premier Eye Care

 

AAHA partners

Tombolo Books

SPC Foundation

Visit St. Pete-Clearwater

The Woodson African American Museum of Florida

Bill Foster

 

News organizations 

WUSF News

Tampa Bay Times

The Weekly Challenger

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