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Opening Reception for “Beaches, Benches, and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay”

September 7, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


***PLEASE NOTE: The Beaches, Benches, and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay opening reception is completely SOLD OUT. Thank you for the amazing support the community has shown for this exhibition and the opening! Unfortunately, we have limited capacity inside the Museum so will be unable to welcome anyone into the Museum for opening reception if they do not have a confirmed reservation. However, we will be streaming the opening reception on FACEBOOK LIVE on September 7th at 7pm. Please tune in at


Beaches, Benches and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay
Exhibition Opening Reception

The Florida Holocaust Museum is pleased to present an original exhibition Beaches, Benches, and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay. The exhibition opening reception will take place at the Museum on Saturday, September 7th at 7:00 p.m. and is free to the public, with reservation. The program will include a panel discussion about the history of Tampa Bay’s African American communities in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota. The discussion will be moderated by Judge Charles Williams and panelists will include Fred Hearns, formerly of Tampa, Gwendolyn Reese of St. Petersburg, and Victoria Oldham of Sarasota.
The focus of most Civil Rights history is written about places like Alabama and Mississippi, as if few challenges occurred elsewhere. Tampa Bay remained racially segregated at the dawn of the Civil Rights era and many local institutions and establishments held out on integration for several years after Brown v. the Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 
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 like restaurants and beaches were often segregated – if blacks were allowed in at all. 
The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay may have had characteristics similar to other areas of the South but its stories are its own. This exhibition will illuminate our region’s struggle with racial equality and shine a light on the local leaders who changed our cities.
The exhibition opening reception is free and open to the public. Seating is limited! To reserve your seat, please call 727.820.0100, extension 301. $5 valet will be available on site. 
Beaches, Benches, and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay opens to the public on Saturday, September 7, 2019 and will be on display through Sunday, March 1, 2020 at The Florida Holocaust Museum. 


Panelist Bios:

Gwendolyn Reese was born in St. Petersburg and is a proud graduate of Gibbs High School and St. Petersburg Junior College.  She is the current president of the African American heritage Association of St. Petersburg. Under her leadership the organization developed a walking trail through the historic neighborhoods of the city and captured oral histories of it African American residents.

Fred Hearns grew up in Tampa and the once flourishing African American community of Central Avenue.  He is a graduate of Middleton High School in Tampa and went on to receive his B.A. degree in English journalism from USF and his M.A. degree from Springfield College. In the early 70s he worked as the sports information director for Southern University in Baton Rouge, but returned to Tampa in 1974 to work for the city’s Department of Community Affairs and worked for the city for 32 years.  For the city, he worked on several notable projects including the revitalization of the Perry Harvey, Sr. Park.  In 2005, he started a tourism business offering bus and walking tours of Tampa’s African American history and published his autobiography “Getting It Done: Rebuilding Black America Brick by Brick.” He served as president for the local chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and history and was a longtime member of the NAACP and the Tampa Urban League.  In recent years, he partnered with the Tampa History Center to offer his walking tour of the Central Avenue area and until very recently led those tours himself.

Victoria Oldham, M.F.A. has been a journalist and media and public relations strategies for over 25 years. She is a consultant and community scholar, and is well known as a former broadcast journalist and ‘daughter’ of Newtown. She has worked in higher education marketing and communications for nine years.  Her responsibilities included branding and marketing three Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Oldham completed a documentary short about Newtown’s history in 1992, “Triumphant Struggle,” and was one of the producers of the documentary, “Reflections: A History of Sarasota County,” in 2003.  She founded the interdisciplinary “Looking for Angola” (LFA) project in 2004 to identify archaeological and historical evidence of the early 1800 Black Seminole settlement Angola, located in the Tampa Bay area.  In 2015 she was hired by the City of Sarasota to document over 100 years of  history related to the communities of Overtown and Newtown trough an initiative called “Newtown Alive.” She and her team not only produced a 365 report outlining the history, but also conducted oral testimonies, inventoried over 150 historic structures in Newtown, developed the website, added 15 historic markers throughout the community, created a Newtown Alive mobile app and developed a unique trolley tour of the communities.

Judge Charles E. Williams was born in North Carolina, raised in St. Petersburg, Florida and graduated from Howard University in Washington D.C.; He earned his law degree from the University of Florida. He is a Circuit Court Judge in the 12th Judicial Circuit which includes Sarasota, Manatee and Desoto Counties, Florida. His past awards include the Community Service Award from the Manatee County Bar Association, and the Manatee County NAACP Public Service Award. He is a recipient of the Sarasota County NAACP 2014 Public Service Award and also the recipient of the Sarasota County Branch NAACP’s 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the recipient of the C.L. McKaig Award, presented by the Sarasota County Bar Association in recognition and appreciation of his tireless dedication to promoting the ideals of equality, justice, and professionalism. Judge Williams has been elected by his fellow judges to serve as Chief Judge for the 12th Judicial Circuit. When he is not involved in his judicial duties, Judge Williams writes, directs, and produces documentary films.  He currently sits on the Board of Directors of Embracing Our Differences, Florida Studio Theatre, and The Boxser Diversity Initiative. He is committed to diversity and inclusion and was a founding member of the Sarasota County Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He works closely with the Booker High School Law Academy in hopes of inspiring a future generation of lawyers and leaders who understand and respect the role the law has played in shaping our society.


September 7, 2019
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Event Category:


Florida Holocaust Museum
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The Florida Holocaust Museum
55 5th Street S
Saint Petersburg, FL 33701 United States
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