St. Johns County Selected as Site for Florida’s First Black History Museum

The Florida Museum of Black History Task Force has selected St. Johns County as the location for the State’s inaugural Black History Museum. During the ninth meeting of the Task Force on May 21, the members voted 5-4 in favor of recommending St. Johns County, affirming the location’s top rank for the third time. This recommendation will be included in a comprehensive report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives as directed by House Bill 1441.

The Task Force, established under HB 1441, was tasked with identifying a suitable location for the museum. Following a meticulous selection and scoring process, St. Johns County emerged as the leading choice, surpassing Eatonville/Orange County, Opa-locka, and Sarasota.

St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners Chair Sarah Arnold expressed her enthusiasm, stating, “We have prevailed. It was a tough fight through very eventful processes. Now, we are excited to move forward and continue building stakeholders. We praise Howard M. Holley, Sr., Gayle Phillips, Rep. Berny Jacques, Tony Lee, Ed.D., and Rep. Kiyan Michael for their steadfast commitment to due process and a fair evaluation of the established criteria to review all locations adequately. They remained true to the guidelines the Task Force established. They did not waver under the pressure to modify the criteria to get an alternative outcome. Instead, they demonstrated character. The bottom line is that St. Johns County won.”

County Administrator Joy Andrews is prepared to move forward, stating, “We are ready for the next step in this long, winding journey to secure St. Johns County as the Florida location to celebrate and cultivate the State’s Black History. The work has just begun, and we are more ready than ever.”

The final scores for the top locations were:

  1. St. Johns County: 96.78
  2. Eatonville/Orange County: 95.33
  3. Opa-locka: 84.89
  4. Sarasota: 80.78

During the May 21 meeting, the agenda included an “Optional Vote on Museum Location” despite objections from one member. Following a presentation by Dr. Andrew Chin from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University on the strengths and challenges of the top three locations, a motion to accept St. Johns County as the top location was introduced. The motion, after thorough discussion and public comments, including support from Sarah Arnold, Chair of the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners, was approved by a narrow margin. County Administrator Joy Andrews highlighted the County’s commitment to a fair and transparent process and the County’s readiness to conduct feasibility and sustainability studies if selected. She also addressed concerns about diverging from the established criteria by requesting an opportunity to properly respond and be fairly assessed.

Previously, the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources notified St. Johns County on April 15 that its proposal scored among the top four prospective locations. 

The final report by the Task Force is expected to be completed and submitted in June, concluding its duties assigned under HB 1441.