Spotlight: The African American Experience in Florida 

Recent collections, archives & projects highlighting local Black history & heritage
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An initiative of USF Libraries’ Special Collections, The African American Experience in Florida (AAE), is an online portal containing materials and archives from Black communities, individuals, and businesses. The portal aims to help students, educators, researchers, and the public learn about Black experiences in Florida.

As USF Libraries Dean Todd Chavez explains, these curated pieces were collected to “promote peaceful solutions and promote social justice for all.”

An image of The Weekly Challenger, Published 1973-10-06.
The Weekly Challenger


Some notable collections include the St. Petersburg newspaper, The Weekly Challenger. The Weekly Challenger has documented the history of St. Petersburg’s African American community since the newspaper was established by Cleveland Johnson, Jr. in September 1967. The AAE portal archives their newly published articles and stories dating back to 1967.



As part of the USF Libraries Special Collections department, the Arts Collection features the Bank of America Black American Music Collection. This collection consists of approximately 4000 pieces of published sheet music created, performed, or published by African Americans or that portrays African American themes throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the United States.

"The Rain Storm" sheet music, composed by Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins.
“The Rain Storm” sheet music, composed by Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins.

The archives of one of Tampa’s oldest African American women’s organizations, Tampa Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, is also available through the portal. This collection features documents and other history materials belonging from each of the 12 presidents of the chapter, which was charted in 1987.

Tampa Chapter Presidents, left to right: Demoris Rhodes, Seventh President; Joan Brown Dawson, Fourth President; Gloria Adams Andrews, First President; Marsha Lewis Brown, Twelfth President; Marie Baity Beard, Second President; Janice Carter-Collier, Eighth President; and Juel Shannon Smith, PhD, Archives and History Chapter Chairperson

Learn more about The Links, Inc. in The Tampa Chapter of The Links, Incorporated Selects USF Libraries to House Archives.

Another featured collection revolves around personal and professional documents of The Armwood Family, a prominent Tampa family. Members of this family included Blanche Armwood, who was a pioneer African American education, and championed the betterment of the community. The Armwood Family Papers collects correspondence, photographs, and other articles of historical significance.

“Group of women members of the Tampa Urban League,” USF Libraries Digital Collections. Blanche Armwood is top row, first on left.

Further Readings and Events

You can also explore the African American Experience in the U.S. (AAEUS) collection through Digital Commons, our institutional repository, which contains direct open access to journal articles, theses, and dissertations on the subject. In celebration of Black Heritage Month, the Office of Multicultural Affairs offers a month-long calendar of events that educate, celebrate, and commemorate the contributions of the Black community.


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