It’s a story of struggle, perseverance and achievement with a legacy that includes art, music, literature, architecture and lasting contributions to Tallahassee and the entire State of Florida. Discover the energy and richness of the African American experience throughout Tallahassee. The Florida Black Heritage Trail includes several significant, local sites including the John G. Riley Museum of African American History and Culture, Florida A&M; University, the historic Frenchtown community, the Knott House Museum, the Museum of Florida History, the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and more. From blues to boycotts and banks to a battlefield, it’s a special story told in special places.
Organized in 1832, it is the only church remaining from Tallahassee’s territorial days. The restored sanctuary still has its original north gallery, where slaves worshiped but sat apart from the white congregation.
Originally opened as the State Normal College for Colored Students on October 3, 1887. Florida A&M is now the oldest historically Black university in Florida with 12,000 students and 13 colleges awarding 62 bachelor’s degrees and 39 master’s degrees.
In the 19th century, many French settlers moved to the area that is now bounded by Tennessee Street, Alabama Street, Woodward Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. In 1831, the then dubbed Frenchtown was comprised of plantations, churches, homesteads, educational institutions, businesses and residences. Following the Civil War many former slaves migrated to the area and it developed into a thriving middle-class African American community. Only a few original structures remain with preservation efforts underway. Famous musicians including Ray Charles, Nat Adderley and brother Cannonball Adderley lived and performed in this community.
An ordinance passed in 1936 prevented Blacks from purchasing plots and burying family in the Old City Cemetery, which at that time was one of the only cemeteries in town. Several Black community members led by J.R.D Laster, the area’s first Black funeral director, purchased 16 acres on Old Bainbridge Road and established Greenwood Cemetery.
The house was built in 1890 on the outskirts of the historic Smokey Hollow neighborhood by John G. Riley, civic leader and Lincoln High School principal. The house has been restored and is a museum honoring Riley and other prominent African American leaders. Open Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission: $2 for adults, $1 for children under age of 12 and Leon County School Students are free.
This is one of several homes constructed by African American builder, George Proctor. The house acted as the headquarters for Union solders after Florida’s surrender during the Civil War. On May 20, 1865 Union General Edwin McCook read the Emancipation Proclamation from the house steps. The house is now a museum and hosts a reenactment of the proclamation reading every year. Guided tours available Wednesday-Friday from 1-3 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Opened in 1977 as the state’s history museum, it houses exhibits and artifacts covering Florida’s history and prehistory. More than 40,000 artifacts and permanent exhibits span periods from the prehistoric mastodon to the Space Age. The newest exhibit, Phase II of Forever Changed, chronicles a dynamic period in history - from the meeting and interaction of vastly different native and European cultures to Florida's adoption as a United States territory and eventually a state.
The Battle of Natural Bridge took place in March 1865. Union forces, including two regiments of U.S. Colored Troops, landed near the St. Marks Lighthouse hoping to capture Tallahassee. The advance was halted by the Confederates and the Union troops retreated to the coast. The Battle of Natural Bridge Reenactment is held annually in March. Open daily from 8 a.m.-sundown. Admission: $3 per vehicle and $2 for pedestrians and cyclists.
Tallahassee’s first public cemetery served as the burial place for both Blacks and whites as early as 1829, but laws at the time required Blacks be buried in the western half of the cemetery. Thomas Van Renssaler Gibbs (Reconstruction legislator and educator), James Page (founder of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church) and John G. Riley (noted educator) are buried here. After 1937 most African Americans were buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Open every day from sunrise to sunset. FREE.
Lincoln High School was first opened under the name, the Lincoln Academy in 1869, as the first Black high school in Leon County. The school was closed in 1967 and is now used as a community center. The modern day Lincoln High can be found at 3838 Trojan Trail.
Known as the “Black Archives,” the center’s mission includes collecting, preserving, displaying and disseminating information about African Americans and people of Africa worldwide. This collection is the most extensive in the Southeast. Center and museum are open Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-4p.m.
The museum boasts 52 acres which include: native wildlife habitats, Tree-to-Tree Adventures an outdoor zip line and adventure course, historic buildings and educational exhibits. The Tallahassee Museum features the restored Bellevue mansion with an attached kitchen and slave cabin as well as a one-room schoolhouse used by former slaves. It is also one of the few museums in the nation that combines a natural habitat zoo of indigenous wildlife, a collection of more than 14 historic buildings and artifacts, and an environmental center on a 52 acre lakeside setting. Open Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Sunday 12:30-5 p.m.
Includes 16 terrazzo panes that tell the story of the city’s bus boycott of 1956 and lunch counter sit-in demonstrations of 1960-1963. The sidewalk, located on East Jefferson Street, includes names of some of the Civil Rights leaders and other activists who participated in the protests.
Built in 1894, this historic home is listed under the register of historic places. It now houses a museum celebrating the rich heritage of the Taylor, Casanas, Howell and Alexander families, the Frenchtown community and the civil rights movement. Open Wednesday– Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Free
Once the National Freedman’s Bank for newly emancipated slaves, the building today it acts as a annex to the Carrie Meek/James Eaton Sr. Black Archives Research Center.