September 23, 2020 [St. Petersburg, FL] -- The Florida Holocaust Museum is pleased to announce that it has been selected for the Gold Award in the Southeastern Museums Conference’s (SEMC) Excellence in Exhibitions Competition for its exhibition Beaches, Benches, and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement of Tampa Bay. The original exhibition premiered at the Museum, in September 2019, and highlights the rich histories of the region’s Black communities and reveals Tampa Bay’s segregated past. This exhibition illuminates our region’s struggle with racial equality and shines a light on the local leaders who changed our cities.
Each year the SEMC hosts the Exhibition Competition and focuses on exhibitions that are “well designed, have educational value and treat objects with care and respect” (SEMCdirect.net). This year, judges were asked to record constructive criticism on entries, particularly where they were impressed. One of the judges wrote, “Important and relevant work, done by fully engaging with Black community members and breaking down institutional barriers.”
Beaches, Benches, and Boycotts was created by The FHM staff in partnership with community organizations, including NewtownAlive in Sarasota, the African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay History Center, to showcase original materials from this history. Local individual donors lent The FHM their personal belongings to be exhibited such as a Black high school letterman’s jacket worn by Fred Hearn (formerly of Tampa) and a Gibbs High School yearbook owned by Eula Mae Mitchell Perry of St. Petersburg.
Under "Jim Crow," every aspect of African American life in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and their surrounding cities was segregated. Restricted covenants were in place that segregated residential neighborhoods. African American children had to attend segregated schools that were under-funded and often in disrepair. Blacks could only be cared for at "Black only" hospitals, and other public and private establishments, such as restaurants and beaches, were often segregated - if Blacks were allowed in at all.
The exhibition was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Premier Eye Care with additional support from the City of St. Petersburg, the Florida Division of Cultural Arts, and The Florida Department of Education. Additional community partners and sponsors included: USF St. Petersburg campus, University of South Florida Libraries - Tampa, St. Petersburg Museum of History, Pasadena Community Church, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, Newtown Historical Gallery, Victoria Oldham, Gwendolyn Reese, and Eula Mae Mitchell Perry.
This award winning exhibition can still be accessed online: https://tour.fhm.yourcultureconnect.com/. The digital experience contains three different virtual exhibitions highlighting the Civil Rights Movement in St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Sarasota. These digital exhibitions illuminate our region's struggle with racial equality and shine a light on the local leaders who changed our cities.
About The Florida Holocaust Museum
One of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, and one of three nationally accredited Holocaust museums, The Florida Holocaust Museum honors the memory of millions of men, women and children who suffered or died in the Holocaust. The FHM is dedicated to teaching members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides. For additional information, please visit www.TheFHM.org