carnegielibrary_web.jpgTALLAHASSEE — Now that the state Legislature is back in session you may have a reason to go to Tallahassee. Why not make a family trip of it, by taking a long weekend away without going too far? Florida’s capital features some of the state’s most significant African American historic sites. Below are some sites you can visit that tell the stories and achievements of Tallahassee’s many African Americans.

Carnegie Library on Florida A&M University’s campus, 850-599-3020,

The historic 1907 Carnegie Library has one of the country’s most extensive collections of African American artifacts. Established by the Florida legislature in 1971, the repository houses more than half a million documents and thousands of artifacts from all over the world. The collection includes a 500-piece Ethiopian cross collection and rare African books and maps, some dating back to the 1700s.

Bradfordville Blues Club, 7152 Moses Lane, 850-906-0766,

An authentic chittlin’ circuit blues club, it has been designated with a National Blues Trail marker. It hosts renowned blues acts such as Percy Sledge, Johnny Rawls, E.C. Scott and Johnny Marshall. The club is an icon in African American heritage and delivers the best in live blues on Friday and Saturday nights.

Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk, located at the corner of Jefferson and Monroe Streets,

Florida’s capital city recently unveiled the Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk, a commemorative sidewalk that illustrates another piece of the city’s intricate African American history. It honors more than 50 Civil Rights leaders and activists who took part in Tallahassee’s 1960s lunch counter sit-ins and the 1956 bus boycott.  Florida State University’s Master Craftsman Studio designed and constructed the terrazzo sidewalk – including iconic slogans, images of brass footsteps bearing the names of activists and a bus that displays A&M College, which was the name of Florida A&M University at the time. 

C.K. Steele Memorial, 111 W. Tennessee St., 850-681-7881

C.K. Steele Memorial commemorates the work of the Rev. Charles Kenzie Steele, one of Florida’s Civil Rights leaders. Steele, who was a friend and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., organized the Tallahassee bus boycott by setting up a car pool for black patrons. Steele often proclaimed, “I’d rather walk in dignity than ride in humiliation.”

First Presbyterian Church, 102 N. Adams St., 850-222-4504,

Built in 1835, this Greek Revival landmark is the oldest church in Tallahassee. Atypical in its time, the church welcomed African American slaves as independent members but they had to sit in the north gallery separate from the rest of the congregation.

John G. Riley House Museum, 419 E. Jefferson St., 850-681-7881,

The Riley House is the second home in the state to be owned by a black person. Placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978, the Riley House is a landmark for the community. John Riley was born into slavery in 1857 in Leon County. After slavery, he worked as a teacher and principal for the school board from the 1880s until 1926. He lived with his family in the home on Jefferson Street until his death in 1954. The Riley House represents the thriving, middle-class black community that once existed in downtown Tallahassee – Smoky Hollow – and now serves as a museum whose mission it is to preserve African American history and culture, from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights movement.

Knott House Museum, 301 E. Park Ave., 850-922-2459,

Built in 1843 by free black builder George Proctor, perhaps the home’s most significant historical contribution was that Union Army Brigadier General Edward McCook read the Emancipation Proclamation from its front steps in 1865. Every year on May 20, an event is held on the steps of the Knott House to commemorate this historic event. Now a museum interpreting life in the 1920s and ‘30s, the restored home has been nicknamed “The House That Rhymes” for the eccentric poems written and attached to household furnishings by one-time matron of the house, Luella Knott.

Saint James C.M.E. Church, 106 N. Bronough St., 850-577-0238

Constructed in 1899 on land purchased by black members of the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, the structure is the oldest African American church in Tallahassee.

Battle of Natural Bridge Historic State Park, 7502 Natural Bridge Road, 850-922,6007,

Just south of downtown Tallahassee in Woodville, the Battle of Natural Bridge took place in March 1865 when a Union force of troops, including two regiments of U.S. Colored Troops, landed in the vicinity of the St. Marks Lighthouse hoping to capture Tallahassee.  Confederate troops halted the Union advance here and the Union troops retreated to the coast. The Battle of Natural Bridge Reenactment, one of the largest such events in Florida, is held annually in early March.

Tallahassee Museum, 3945 Museum Dr., 850-575-8684,

Amid its 52 scenic acres are the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, the Concord Schoolhouse and the B.O. Wood Commissary. Built in 1937 by a rural black congregation, the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church was founded by a slave preacher, Rev. James Page, ordained in the 1850s. It has the distinction of being one of the most significant black churches in Florida, and the exhibit, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and FAMU, traces the congregational history and the importance of black churches to their communities. The 1890s, one-room Concord Schoolhouse educated children of former slaves and served as a public school until 1968. Restored to its early appearance, the exhibit traces the history of the education of black students, serving as a powerful reminder of the struggles and strides made in black education in Florida. The B.O. Wood Commissary, a remnant of the turpentine industry, was once a “company store,” where black turpentine workers purchased provisions.

Taylor House Museum, 442 W. Georgia St., 850-222-6111,

Originally built in 1894, the Taylor House recently reopened to offer guests a glimpse into the past. The white, two-story building, showcases special exhibits and three different historical themes — Civil Rights, Frenchtown and the Taylor Family.

Historic Frenchtown Community, 612 W. Brevard St., 850-513-9981

The Historic Frenchtown Community originated from 19th century settlers who moved to the area from France. Their relocation was prompted by the July 4, 1825 Lafayette Land Grant, which gave Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, a township in the U.S. of his choice. After the Civil War, African Americans moved to the Frenchtown section and the area became a hub of activity with growing businesses. From 1940—1945, Ray Charles lived in this community and was among local and national musicians including Charles, Nat and Cannonball Adderley, BB King and Lawyer Smith who played the Red Bird Club and Cafe DeLuxe in Frenchtown. The fourth structure of Lincoln Academy, one of three freedmen schools built in Florida after slavery, still stands in Frenchtown and now serves as a community center and a historical memorial to the school. 

Union Bank Southwest corner of Apalachee Parkway and Calhoun Street, 850-599-3020

Built in 1841, Union Bank is among Florida’s oldest surviving financial institutions. The bank played a major financial role as a planter’s bank in the territorial period and as the Freedman’s Savings Bank for newly emancipated slaves during Reconstruction. Tours are available by appointment only.


To view sample itineraries of historic African American sites, or call Visit Tallahassee toll free at 800-628-2866.