Youth Farm at Enoch Davis Center students look out over 22 Street South in St. Pete, once a bustling street for the African American community in the 1960s, where African Americans were known to take care of their own during times of segregation. Photo by Amber Sigman
Gwendolyn Reese, pres., of the African American Heritage Assoc., of St. Petersburg, teaches students about the history of African Americans in St. Pete with Carla Bristol, collaboration mngr., with the Youth Farm at Enoch Davis Center. Photos by Amber Sigman
Students ride the African American Heritage Trail Trolley Tour learning about St. Pete’s African American history during times of segregation and integration, including key players of positive influence and some of the city’s more tumultuous history. Photo by Amber Sigman
Gwendolyn Reese shares the history of 22nd Street South where African Americans created businesses in response to white city leaders wanting them out of downtown as St. Pete became a resort city. Photo by Amber Sigman
Students pass through the lost neighborhood of Gas Plant where 285 buildings and 500 houses that were once owned by African Americans in St. Pete, but were forced out to make way for the Tropicana stadium. Photo by Amber Sigman
Gwendolyn Reese gives students a guided tour with inspirational words to youth of Pinellas County. “We can not let our stories die,” Reese said. Photo by Amber Sigman
The Yara Food Mart on 22nd Street South was once the site of the Blue Star Cab Company, serving African Americans during times of segregation. Photo by Amber Sigman
Students with the Youth Farm at Enoch Davis Recreation Center (named after for the man who played a key role in dismantling segregation in St. Petersburg) ride the trolley to learn about the not-so-distant history of their community. Photo by Amber Sigman
Chief's Creole Cafe on historic 22nd Street South honors the late Mary Brayboy Jones, who was an African American nurse in St. Pete during times of segregation. Photo by Amber Sigman
Students learn about St. Pete’s history both during and after segregation. Photo by Amber Sigman
Gwendolyn Reese discusses the history of the once Mercy Hospital in St. Pete, originally created for African Americans who were otherwise neglected or turned away for medical care due to prejudice and mistreatment. Photo by Amber Sigman
African American influentials are discussed such as Dr. James Maxie Ponder, the first physician to serve African Americans in St. Pete in 1926, and the only physician to serve the community for over a decade. Photo by Amber Sigman
Youth look out from the site of the once Mercy Hospital at 1344 22nd Street South, once the only medical facility for local African-Americans. Photo by Amber Sigman
Two young men on the south side of St. Pete spontaneously join the tour, to learn about African American history, hugging and thanking Gwendolyn Reese as they depart. Photo by Amber Sigman
The African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg offers Guided Walking and Trolley Tours of St. Pete's history of slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and the current Black presence. 83 Degrees followed along on a tour earlier this year, before the outbreak of COVID-19. This story and the accompanying images reflect that event and what would be in store for visitors on future tours.
Her pink earring’s tassels blow in the wind as the open-air trolley passes vivid blue skies.
Students from Youth Farm at Enoch Davis Center ride through historical spots marking St. Pete’s tumultuous past on the African American Heritage Trail Trolley Tour, an educational tour that helps preserve the city's otherwise hidden past.
Gwendolyn Reese, President of the African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, looks out through her alligator rimmed gold eyeglasses, informing students about iconic locations where white city leaders pushed African Americans out of downtown as the city became a resort town. The trolley stops at the site of a lynching of an African-American man in St. Pete prior to the Civil Rights Movement.
“We can not let our stories die,” Reese says.
They pass the Tropicana, once a neighborhood called Gas Plant where 285 buildings and 500 houses were owned by African Americans. Later they were forced out to make way for parking lots and the stadium.
The trolley makes another stop at what once was the Mercy Hospital on 22nd Street South, the only St. Petersburg medical facility that served non-whites decades ago. At the time, Blacks needing medical care were neglected or turned away from other hospitals due to prejudice.
On the tour, Reece memorializes prominent individuals, including Dr. James Maxie Ponder, an African-American and the first physician to serve Blacks in St. Pete in 1926. He was the only physician to serve the community for more than a decade.
Two boys on bikes at a gas station in the south side join in to learn even though they aren’t part of the official tour. As they departed later, both hugged Reese, showing their appreciation for her mission in sharing her knowledge of local history.
For more information and to arrange a tour, visit the African American Heritage Association website.
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