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St. Pete African American Heritage Trail embarks on journey back in time

Posted at 2:03 PM, Feb 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-13 16:28:03-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — There are a couple corridors in St. Pete that are streets to some, but to others, they are a very important history lesson.

This week, people weren’t just climbing on board a trolley, they were embarking on a journey back in time.

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“Our stories matter, they are very important, they are complicated, they are messy, but they matter, and we must tell them,” said Gwendolyn Reese, President of the African American Heritage Association of St. Pete.

February is Black History Month, but you’ll find Reese riding a trolley and conducting tours on the African American Heritage Trail every month of the year.

“I loved history since I was a little girl, as a child I thought I wanted to be a teacher, so I think this is two loves combined,” said Reese.

Wednesday’s tour was sponsored by St. Petersburg Midtown Rotary.

“It helps us to unify the community when we all know what the history has been,” said rotary member Carole Alexander

During the tour, passengers are dropped off at various stops along 22nd Street and 9th Street. In some cases, they are going into buildings nearly a century old like the Manhattan Casino Hall.

“This was the heart of the black community,” said Reese during the tour.

Jake-Ann Jones has been on the tour a couple different times. She said what’s written on the signs at each stop is just as important now, than ever before.

“As St. Pete becomes more gentrified, and there is less affordable housing, I think it’s really important that people from outside and inside get a sense of what this neighborhood has meant to African Americans,” said Jones.

While Reese said her passion and knowledge for the trail expands beyond race, it’s about being an educated American.

“Whether you’re white or black it makes no difference, people don’t know the rich culture heritage and history of the African American presence in this city or in the country,” said Reese.

For more information on future tours, click here.