A drone shot of 22nd Street in the Dueces Live District

22nd Street South and 9th Avenue South was the former hub of Black businesses, homes and entertainment during the time of segregation. Today it is the heart of the African American Heritage Trail.

An Undeniable Presence

The African American Heritage Trail

Located in St. Petersburg, Florida, The African American Heritage Trail chronicles the first 100 years of Black presence, contribution, and community in the city. 


What do Eleanor Roosevelt, Nat King Cole, and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune have in common? 

Florida’s African American Heritage Trail. 

Located in St. Petersburg, Florida, The African American Heritage Trail chronicles the first 100 years of Black presence, contribution, and community in the city. 

In 1868, John Donaldson was the first African American to settle in what was then called the Pinellas Peninsula. Donaldson was one of the people who helped St. Petersburg come into its own, formally requesting that the Pinellas Peninsula become separate from Hillsborough County. The railroad followed, and a community grew up around Donaldson. 

In the 1920s, 22nd Street South, known affectionately as “The Deuces” quickly became the bustling hub of African American life in the city during the time of segregation. Over 100 businesses thrived, children learned, and people communed with one another. 

By touring the African American Heritage Trail, you’ll learn about the incredible people who made an impact on not only their community, but the state and beyond. 

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find on the trail:

A historical photo of a band at the Manhattan Casino
Legendary Music

The Manhattan Casino

Originally known as the Jordan Dance Hall, the Manhattan Casino was a venue where the African American community listened to live music, danced, and held events. It’s namesake, Elder Jordan, was a city pioneer who believed that St. Petersburg’s Black community should be able to enjoy quality education, equitable housing, and entertainment. Jordan amassed much wealth and by today’s standards, would have been considered a millionaire. In 1925, he set out to have a 12,000-square-foot venue erected in The Deuces business district. It opened in 1931. 

Fannye Ayer Ponder House

Fannye Ayer Ponder–originally from Ocala, FL—moved to St. Petersburg with her husband, Dr. James Ponder. Planting roots in St. Petersburg, Ponder taught at Gibbs High School and was a proud activist.  Most notably, Ponder’s civic leadership centered on the advancement of the rights of women, and specifically, African American women, locally and nationally. The Ponder family was closely tied to none other than Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Dr. Bethune and Ponder were so close, she considered Ponder a daughter. Ponder’s activism carried her all over the country, and even to the White House, where she worked alongside then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. 

Inspired by the work she did with Bethune and Roosevelt, Ponder came home and started The St. Petersburg Metropolitan Section National Council of Negro Women, Inc. (NCNW). She purchased the house that is located on the trail. It is still the official meeting place of the NCNW chapter. 

An image of a Baseball Helmet

Historically, teams like the New York Yankees, the Chicago Cubs, and the Philadelphia Phillies have been regulars to the area.

Baseball in St. Petersburg

Historically, St. Petersburg was a spring training hub. Teams like the New York Yankees, the Chicago Cubs, and the Philadelphia Phillies were regulars to the area. While white baseball players stayed in hotels in the city, Black baseball players stayed in the homes of Black families long after Jackie Robinson paved the way for Black players in the Major Leagues in 1947. 

Local activists and members of the Ambassador’s Club, Dr. Ralph Wimbish and Dr. Robert Swain helped Black baseball players secure housing within the community. At one point, Dr. Swain had an apartment complex built for the players to stay in, but the accommodations were short-lived, as Swain realized that housing the players separately from white players fostered segregation. 

In addition to Major League Baseball, St. Petersburg was also known for the Negro Baseball League, which played regularly at Cambell Park. 

 

Plan Your Visit

African American Heritage Trail Map

 

The African American Heritage Trail is an accessible walking tour that starts in front of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, located at 2240 9th Ave. South. Trail markers are located along 22nd St. South and 9th Ave. South. 

Head to the Trail

Learn more about the history and heritage - take a walk on The African American Heritage Trail.

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