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~State Parks commemorate Black History Month with living history events and tours~

TALLAHASSEE The Florida Park Service joins Governor Rick Scott in commemorating Black History Month and recognizing the many ways African Americans have enriched Florida’s communities, culture and history.

The month of February brings the celebration of Black History Month. As an expansion from Black History Week, which started in 1926, Black History Month was proposed by leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University in 1969 and first celebrated a year later in February 1970. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Forty-five years later, Black History Month is being recognized nationwide.

“Florida’s state parks are proud to offer interpretative programs that highlight’s Florida history,” said Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione. “From art exhibits and to living history reenactments to tours of the Cape Florida lighthouse, visitors are invited to learn more at Florida’s state parks.”

Join us at Ravine Gardens State Park to celebrate African American artists from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 15. “The Heart of Art” event will showcase visual and musical art along with historical displays, live jazz, poetry readings and delectable desserts.

Florida is full of tradition and history and Florida State Parks stay true to commemorating these traditions. Fort Mose Historic State Park was the first legally sanctioned free African settlement site in the United States. In 1738, the governor chartered the settlement as Fort Mose for those fleeing slavery from the English colonies. For 25 years Fort Mose began a sanctuary for Africans seeking liberation and freedom.

Join us from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 8 for 15-minute walks with living historians who will tell the story of the journey to escape slavery. At 2 pm, Dr. James G. Cusick, curator of the PK Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida, will present a lecture.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park once housed African Americans in small tenant houses. Rawlings and friend Zora Neale Hurston would exchange letters highlighting the changing racial relationships during Reconstruction in the rural south. The park is open for tours of the homestead Thursdays through Sundays.

Also, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park stands as one of the earliest locations for the Underground Railroad. The island served as a secret meeting place and port for runaway slaves and Black Seminoles waiting to rendezvous with sea captains or board dugouts for a passage to safety in the British Bahamas. Although the lighthouse was built to save lives and ships, its unflinching light brought an end to this avenue of escape. In September 2004, Cape Florida was designated a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site. Tours of the lighthouse are available twice daily, Thursdays through Mondays. 

For a complete list of events being held at Florida’s state parks, visit this website.