State delays Black history museum task force’s last meeting until days before report deadline
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 1/4/23-Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, speaks during the Agriculture Committee, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

'That is not the way you do things.'

The Florida Museum of Black History Task Force has a week to submit a report to Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders with recommendations for creating a self-sustaining museum, but now state officials have postponed the group’s last meeting one day before it was set to take place.

The Florida Division of Historical Resources moved the meeting one week back, from Friday to June 28, mere days before the report’s deadline. An announcement about the new date appeared on the Department’s website Thursday afternoon. Likewise, members of the task force found out about the change less than 24 hours before the 9:30 a.m. meeting scheduled in Tallahassee.

The task force’s Chair, Democratic Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orange County, told Florida Phoenix in a phone interview the rescheduling took her by surprise.

“I’m disappointed, because we’re supposed to have a report prepared by June 30. I’ve not even gotten a draft of the report, and if we don’t get it until the 28th we’re almost forced to vote on something that we really haven’t had a chance to review,” she said. “That is not the way you do things. We’re more deliberate than that, and so I’m very disappointed.”

A staff member assigned to the task force said she wasn’t at liberty to discuss the change. The staff writes the report based on the task force members’ discussions. However, one of DeSantis’ picks for the task force — Tony Lee, who works with the State University System of Florida — isn’t concerned about the meeting being moved back.

“I believe the department is working tirelessly to get the meeting materials prepared accurately, and having an extra week will hopefully give them additional time to prepare, as Tallahassee has had recent weather events impacting the downtown area and communities where we all live,” Lee wrote in an email to the Phoenix.

Three tornadoes (two merging at one point) hit Tallahassee neighborhoods the morning of May 10, removing roofs, throwing trees into homes and power lines and causing widespread blackouts.

A detailed analysis

During a previous meeting in late May, the task force settled on a location: Almost 20 acres of undeveloped land owned by Florida Memorial University a few miles outside of St. Augustine, where Martin Luther King Jr. once rallied protests against segregation.

After the hotly contested 5-4 vote in favor of recommending St. Johns County as the location for the museum, the group did not discuss how to build on that site without state government funds.

Even before the last-minute change, Thompson had doubts about the group’s final product.

“We haven’t had a feasibility study to show how we can make this self-sufficient and self-sustaining. That was one of the responsibilities of the task force, and you can’t do that without a feasibility study,” she said. “And so, the idea that was put forward was to choose a site and then do a feasibility study, which I think is backward. So, I’m not comfortable with where we are.”

Feasibility studies are detailed analyses that predict the success of a project and any problems that may arise.

The Legislature has the final say

Thompson, who supported historically Black Eatonville in Orange County as the museum site, said she wanted to raise the issue during the Friday meeting. The task force and its staff planned to meet twice during June, before the July 1 deadline, but that didn’t happen because the report wasn’t complete, Thompson said.

Without a feasibility study, Thompson said, the museum’s construction would be delayed until state lawmakers can approve funding for it during next year’s Legislative Session. The law establishing the task force did not guarantee that the state would finance a Black history museum nor that it would abide by the recommendations of the task force.

The Legislature did not give the task force any money to conduct the analysis, but Lee still thinks the group was successful.

“We’ve covered a lot of ground as a task force and without having a feasibility study and an appropriation to conduct a proper analysis, (but) we’ve successfully done enough,” Lee wrote, adding that he would love to be a part of such a task force again. The group must dissolve after submitting its report.

Since the formation of the task force announcement last year, Black historians tuned in to see how Florida would depict its history, given the mounting controversies regarding the state’s K-12 African American history curricula, NAACP travel advisories, the loss of a Black congressional district, and the hate-crime killings of Black people in Jacksonville.


Jackie Llanos reporting. Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

Florida Phoenix

Florida Phoenix is a news and opinion outlet focused on government and political news coverage within the state of Florida.


  • Rev Jeremiah Wright

    June 24, 2024 at 7:45 am

    No way this will be a self sustaining project. Guaranteed money pit.

    • Michael K

      June 24, 2024 at 1:45 pm

      Cry me a river. Name one “self-sustaining” men’s professional sports facility that does not require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding to build, operate, and maintain. I detect a double standard here.

      The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL, shows how an institution dedicated to honoring the story of enslaved people and the atrocities of the Jim Crow era is also revitalizing downtown and driving tourism. Visitors usually even learn something – and come back.

  • R. Russell

    June 25, 2024 at 3:56 pm

    What BS – am I missing something? Another BLM style money pit for a select group of “people’! Do American facilities devoted to “American History” not include all races, religions and creeds? Then why the f… do we need to spend any money for another one devoted entirely to one segment, excluding the rest?
    This is the United States of America, one nation under God that welcomes all who are worthy. I don’t apologize for being Caucasian, I am proud of it. If non Caucasians, aren’t proud of what they are, that’s their problem. I do not support Segregation and certainly don’t support separate facilities just to make them feel better. Tell the Obamaidensta regime to deliver on what Obama promised: to unite us, and stop their racial animus and lies to divide us.

    • My Take

      June 26, 2024 at 4:28 pm

      Build five, ten times as many black monuments as now and you might start catching up to Confederate.

  • Michael K

    June 26, 2024 at 8:25 am

    I’d like to know which god welcomes only people who are “worthy” to the United States, and under what criteria? I wonder if I am “worthy?” By the way, that “one nation under god” line was added in 1954 – not at our founding, or even part of the original Pledge of Allegiance. It was added during the “Red Scare” hysteria.

    American history, until recently, has mostly only been about people as you describe yourself. Anyone else’s story was pretty much a footnote, and certainly not widely told. But those stories are for everyone. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is free and open and welcoming to everyone. It’s a remarkable institution full of stories that deserve to be honored and told.

  • KathrynA

    July 3, 2024 at 2:13 pm

    Since the Black history of Florida cannot be taught, I think this museum and other similar ways of educating the public are badly needed. Racism is very alive and well in Florida and seems to be coming out of the woodworks in the past 8 years. So sad!

Comments are closed.


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