Black history and travel opportunities abound in Florida, from museums to theaters to cuisine.
And seeking out and celebrating these places became even more important last month after the NAACP issued a travel advisory for the state of Florida "in direct response to Gov. Ron DeSantis' aggressive attempts to erase Black history and restrict diversity, equity and inclusion programs in Florida schools." The announcement sent waves through the travel industry, with some arguing that Black businesses could be hurt if people are discouraged from traveling to the state.
As a Black Floridian, I want to encourage: If you do decide to visit the state, consider learning more about Florida's Black history and landmarks.
From Miami to Jacksonville, here are places you can visit to learn about Florida's rich Black history. And to make the experience more enriching (and delicious), I've suggested a local or Black-owned restaurant or cafe at each stop.
Miami: Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater
Located in Overtown, one of the oldest communities in Miami, the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater is a partnership between the Black Archives History and Research Foundation and the Lyric Theater. The Lyric Theater dates to 1913 and served as a venue for greats like James Brown and Aretha Franklin in its heyday. In 1988, the Black Archives History and Research Foundation acquired the Lyric Theater and completely restored the stage and auditorium. Today, visitors can attend stand-up comedy shows and musical performances.
Located on the same property, the Black Archives has thousands of manuscripts, photographs and art that document African American life in Dade County that are available to the public by appointment.
While you're in Overtown, you can also stop by one of the city's beloved soul food restaurants like Red Rooster and Lil Greenhouse Grill.
Fort Lauderdale: The African American Research Library and Cultural Center
Opened in 2002, the African American Research Library and Cultural Center is a unique, 60,000-square-foot venue in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The building includes a main library, an auditorium and a children's library with more Black-authored books than any other facility in the country.
The center also serves as an essential community center and offers classes, lectures and performances year-round. An exhibit area is located on the first floor, and the second floor includes a special collections room that's available by appointment with research materials, artwork and music.
Pair your visit to the library with a stop at Circle House Coffee, owned by former NFL player Stephen Tulloch.
Orlando: Wells'Built Museum of African American History & Culture
Central Florida is known for its theme parks and family-friendly entertainment, but it's also home to several important Black history landmarks.
One is the Wells'Built Museum of African American History & Culture in Orlando's historic Parramore district. The museum was originally a hotel that hosted notable Black figures like Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall who couldn't lodge in other areas of Orlando because of segregation. Inside the museum, visitors can look forward to a collection of photos, artwork and artifacts that tell the story of Orlando's African American community.
Orlando is also home to many top-notch Black-owned restaurants like Brick and Spoon, a popular brunch spot with Southern dishes like fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits.
St. Augustine: Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center
St. Augustine is Florida's oldest city, and along with exploring the city's 400-year-old Spanish architecture, visitors can visit Lincolnville, an African American district that was established in 1866. Spend a day at the Lincolnville Museum & Cultural Center, which has several exhibits dedicated to Civil Rights heroes like the St. Augustine Four, a group of college students who staged a sit-in at a Woolworths and were jailed for their demonstration. The museum also has materials dedicated to the entertainers who frequented Lincolnville like Ray Charles and B.B. King.
For a taste of soul food, try Heart & Soul Food Truck and Catering, a food truck with items like cornbread muffins and collard greens on the menu.
Jacksonville: The Ritz Theater and Museum
Less than an hour away from St. Augustine, Jacksonville has its own museum for Black history: The Ritz Theater and Museum located in the city's historically Black neighborhood of La Villa.
The current theater and museum was built on the site of the famous Ritz Theater movie house, popular from the 1920s to the 1960s. Today, the building is a buzzing entertainment venue for concerts and community gatherings. The museum has several rotating art and photography exhibits along with a permanent exhibit of James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, who together wrote and composed the music for what is often referred to as the Black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
After your visit, swing by the Cool Moose Cafe, which serves hearty breakfast and lunch dishes.