NewsBlack History Month


Perry Harvey Sr. was instrumental in fighting for the rights of Black longshoremen

Tampa park named in honor of Perry Harvey Sr.
Parry Harvey Sr.png
Posted at 6:42 AM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 08:00:58-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Perry Harvey Sr. was a union leader and civil rights activist who came to Tampa in the 1930s. He started working at the Port of Tampa and became instrumental in fighting for the rights of Black longshoremen.

“Perry Harvey in 1935 became the president of the International Longshoreman Association local 1402. A longshoreman is a person, primarily a male, who works unloading and loading ships. Being in charge of the longshoreman meant that he had a lot of responsibility and a lot of power," Fred Hearns, Historian at Tampa Bay History Center said.

“There were men who didn’t have much of an education but who wanted to work and take care of their families and if they came to Tampa, they could always find work on the docks. It was hard work. It was dangerous work, but it paid well and especially after Perry Harvey was able to negotiate better wages, working conditions, pensions for his men working as longshoremen.”

“Perry Harvey, he gave the name to a national program that we’re all familiar with: The Head Start Program. He was working on a bi-racial committee in 1965 and Sam Gibbons who was a congressman from Tampa at that time asked him one day, ‘Perry, what do we need to do to help Black children?’ And Perry said, ‘well, our children need a head start out in life. We need a Head Start Program.’ That same year the Head Start Program got its name and it was founded and, so, to pay tribute to Perry Harvey, the city of Tampa named a park, a brand-new park that sits on top of what used to be Central Avenue, Perry Harvey Sr. Park. That park has over $6,000,000 of African American art in it that tells you the history of Black folk in Tampa.”

Perry Harvey Sr Park.png

Perry Harvey died in the 1970s and he’s buried here in Tampa. His son, Perry Harvey Jr, would go on to be the first Black person elected to the Tampa city council.