In 2013, the City of St. Petersburg received a $50,000 grant from the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, to fund the African-American Heritage Trail project. A steering committee was formed, composed of community members, historians and other specialists from local educational and cultural institutions, all of whom had a special interest in African-American history.
The City and Steering Committee held a number of outreach meetings to solicit nominations and historic materials for the creation of the trails. Trail stops were chosen that conveyed African-American history and culture in St. Petersburg. In 2014, the African-American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, Inc. was incorporated as a nonprofit in the state of Florida and became a 501(c)(3) in 2019.
Timbuktu Center for African and African American Studies
In its third year of operation, the Center holds seminars that are free and open to the public. Elementary through high school and adults are welcome to attend. Seminars are held on the second Saturday at the James Weldon Johnson Community Library. The Center’s focus is to educate the community about the valuable contributions of African people to world civilization. The journey begins on the African continent and continues through the Middle Passage, slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and includes the Black presence in the history of St. Petersburg.
The Community Remembrance Project (CRP)
AAHA is a part of the CRP, a grass-roots coalition of organizations and individuals inspired by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). The CRP is working to install historical markers at a significant site in our community that will bear witness to the horrors of lynching.
Guided Walking and Trolley Tours
Privately booked and public tours are available. Community tours are held regularly and private tours can be booked at any time.
Speaking engagements and presentations
Can be scheduled upon request.
Where We're Going Next
African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, FL, has begun Phase II of the Heritage Trail, which will be located in Methodist Town. Methodist Town, located west of Martin Luther King, Jr. Street between Arlington and 5th Avenues North was one of the four major African American communities in St. Pete. It was developed c.1894 around the historic Bethel AME Church, from which it got its name.
Gwendolyn Reese, President
Gwendolyn Reese is President of the African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, FL, Inc. She is also the President and CEO of Peaten Reese Peaten Consulting, Inc. and serves on the St. Petersburg Community Preservation & Planning Commission. She is currently the co-chair of the Pinellas Community Remembrance Project. The coalition includes a diverse group of more than 30 individuals representing the community and local organizations, institutions, and government entities working to install a historical marker at the site of one of the lynchings that occurred in our community and to educate the community to the horrors and long-lasting impact of racial terror lynchings. Reese also chaired the group of volunteers who, in a partnership with city government, developed the African American Heritage Trail along 22nd Street and 9th Avenue in South St. Petersburg, which opened in August 2014. Ms. Reese has been an activist and change agent in this community for more than 40 years. Her current projects include: Completing Phase II of the African American Heritage Trail in Methodist Town; the Timbuktu Center for African and African American Studies,a free educational experience for school age youth, their parents, and teachers in African and African American history and culture; the erection of a bronze statue of Elder Jordan on the “Deuces”; and the Institute for Urban Leadership Development, which is a program to nurture and support future African American community leaders. In 2015 Ms. Reese was the recipient of the 2015 MLK Leadership Award presented by the National Council of Negro Women and was recognized by Congresswoman Kathy Castor for more than 40 years of community activism and leadership. The Congressional Recognition included a U.S. flag which was flown over the United States Capitol on January 13, 2015, and a Statement for Congressional Record which was filed in the Library of Congress. In February 2016, she was named one of the Pinellas County Urban Leagues 2016 “Champions of Justice.” In February 2018, she was the recipient of the inaugural Peggy Peterman Award presented by the Legacy Group for her weekly column on local African American History in the Weekly Challenger newspaper; in May of that year she received the Founders Tribute from the 2020 Plan; and in October 2018 she was the recipient of the Pinellas Opportunity Council’s “Presidents Award.”
Jon Wilson, Vice President
A native of Scottsbluff, NE., Jon Wilson moved to St Petersburg with his family in 1956. He attended local schools. He was a reporter and editor for the St. Petersburg Evening Independent and the St. Petersburg Times for 37 years. Wilson is the author of St. Petersburg’s Historic 22nd Street South and St. Petersburg’s Historic African American Neighborhoods, and is vice president of the African American Heritage Association. He and his wife Becky have three children and six grandchildren.
Secretary - Andrea Peaten
Treasurer - Jennifer Griffith
Comms Chair - Nicole Slaughter Graham
Events Chair - Carla Bristol
Membership Chair - Will Baldwin