Dreams must face reality for St. Pete’s Carter G. Woodson museum | Editorial
A modern home for the black history museum would be great. First it needs strong private financial support.
Published January 2, 2020 By Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board
From lunch counter sit-ins to a garbage workers’ strike to school desegregation, St. Petersburg has a rich story to tell of civil rights, African-American trailblazers and vibrant black neighborhoods. Combine that with Florida history, and there is enormous potential for a modern black history museum to add to the city’s impressive collection of museums. But the tiny Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum has miles to go before it’s prepared to vigorously pursue such a vision, and it’s premature for the city to give the museum public land that should be used to attract more jobs.
The Woodson museum opened in 2006 as an effort to celebrate the area’s African-American history. The organization takes its name from the man known as the father of Black History Month. Although Woodson does not have ties to St. Petersburg, this modest museum is the only one to have his name. The city bought the land the nonprofit museum sits on from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority for $680,000 in 2015 and leased it back to the museum for $1 a year. But it was premature for the city to recently promise the museum five acres for a big new home.
First, the museum needs to show it can rally supporters and raise a significant amount of money for such an ambitious expansion. Museum leaders have said they need between $15 million and $20 million for the construction of the new museum and five years of operational costs. It’s reasonable to expect some public money to go toward such an effort, just as it has for other museums in St. Petersburg. But the city cannot be on the hook for most of the cost.