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African American History Gets A Spotlight In Pensacola

Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Meda

A newly curated exhibit chronicling African-American history has opened in downtown Pensacola. “It’s an exhibit that was originally curated by the New York Historical Society and Museum,” said Dr. Cheryl Howard, the President, CEO and co-founder of the African American Heritage Society of Pensacola.

The exhibit is called Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow. Dr. Howard says the Jim Crow period is just a small piece of the current exhibit. “The exhibit (was originally) designed to talk primarily about Jim Crow and Reconstruction. It’s a poster-based exhibit, so there were eight posters. But with the permission of the New York Historical Society and the support of the University of West Florida’s Historic Trust, I was permitted to augment this exhibit, and I have included an additional 16 posters so that we can cover a larger period, beginning with African life and experience on the continent. The origins of the African American people.”

Those additions to the original exhibit took a year to curate and are now ready to be seen by the public. And while the African American Heritage Society does have its own exhibition space, the additions to this show meant they needed a larger venue. That venue is Voices of Pensacola on Government Street.

“This is the space that is owned by the University of West Florida’s Historic Trust, and they offered this space to us, and we were very pleased to utilize the space. We’ve used it before. It’s very open, it’s airy, it’s fantastic. I think it’s a wonderful venue for this particular exhibit.”

The exhibit will also be augmented with a series of virtual lectures and book study sessions over the next several months, and covers the history of the African people from ancient Egypt to the current Black Lives Matter movement. Dr. Howard says she was thrilled to take on the project. 

Credit Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Meda
Dr. Cheryl Howard, CEO/President of the African American Society of Pensacola talks about one of the pieces she added to the exhibit.

“It felt like a dream come true because I have wanted to have the opportunity to have a core-based exhibit that could be expended upon in both directions, to give a more complete history of the African American experience, and the African experience in America. We believe that American history and African American History are intertwined and they are essentially the exact same thing.”

Dr. Howard also says she hopes people walk away from the exhibit with a bit more understanding of that history. 

“Number one, they’ll have a heightened awareness of the history of African people here in America, and also in the Caribbean and other parts of the world. And also, (they) will leave having learned something new, something that they didn’t know. And that the impression will be one in which no one feels shame and no one feels guilt, because that is not the intention of this exhibit. This exhibit is to inform and educate.”

The exhibit Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow is open to the public at Voices of Pensacola Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free.