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Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

FLORIDA

In 1990, the Florida Legislature created the Study Commission on African American History in Florida. The Commission was asked to recommend methods to establish a Black Heritage Trail to identify sites, buildings and other points of interest in Black history that should be preserved and promoted as a tourist attraction. A year later the state produced the first edition of the Florida Black Heritage Trail.

The 64-page third edition of the guide is now in print featuring 400 places of interest and includes four self-guided driving tours. I was able to download this guide by going to flheritage.com or visitflorida.com.

Florida started out as a haven for escaped slaves. Early slaves found refuge with the Spanish and the Seminoles. Fort Mose in St. Augustine was the earliest settlement of free blacks in America.

Poet James Weldon Johnson was principal of Old Stanton High School in Jacksonville where he composed Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing. From his childhood home in Greenville, the great Ray Charles launched his career at nightspots in Jacksonville. Famed author Zora Neale Hurston described growing up in Florida in many of her books. Mary McLeod Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach and baseball legend Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier at Dodgers spring training in Florida.

I found all of that information on page one of the guide. This publication should be required reading for any meeting planner contemplating an event in Florida or any visitor interested in the Black experience.

If you will permit me to get personal for a moment - I spent four years of my childhood in Panama City, FL thanks to my father's military career. For those unfamiliar with Florida, Panama City is on the panhandle and sits right on the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles southwest of the state capital of Tallahassee.

There are two entries in the guide about Panama City and both played an integral role in my childhood that I was completely unaware of until I reviewed this publication. Josea Massalina an African-American Spanish fisherman founded Red Fish Point. Today Red Fish Point just outside Panama City is Tyndall Air Force Base my home of four years.

The second reference point as it pertains to me is the Rosenwald School. Located in what was once the Black business district of Panama City, this school served the Black students of the county during segregation. The connection to me, I arrived just two years after the school was desegregated and this was my junior high school for three years.

CHATTANOOGA, TN

The Chattanooga African American Museum is home to the Bessie Smith Performance Hall named after the legendary singer, and one of the first African-American vocalists ever recorded. The museum and hall is also recognized as a regional education center. The museum's website is caamhistory.org.

The museum does significant research into the history of Black Chattanooga. The museum recently cooperated in the publication of a book about the U.S. colored troops stationed in Chattanooga during the latter stages of the Civil War.

During Black History Month there are several special events over at the Chickamauga Battlefield honoring the contributions of African-Americans during the Civil War.

The city's proximity to the Tennessee River also made it prime crossing point for runaway slaves fleeing northward.

Much of Chattanooga's history is captured in the many historical sites that dot the landscape. Go to chattanoogafun.org.

MEMPHIS, TN

Memphis is one of the premier African-American heritage destination sites in the country. The National Civil Rights Museum opened its doors in 1991, and attracts hundreds of thousands. This museum gives you a sense of the indignities suffered by Blacks throughout the South, such as a recording when you sit down at the museum that tells visitors to sit down at the back of the bus.

Attached to the museum is the now infamous Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Galleries in the museum include the King Room, Selma, Freedom Riders and March Against Fear. It is arguably the most complete museum on Civil Rights in the world. To learn more about the museum log on to civilrightsmuseum.org.

Other great Memphis landmarks include the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the W.C. Handy Monument.

And no one should ever go to Memphis without tasting some of the best food anywhere. Check out memphistravel.com for more.

ETHIOPIA

As Abyssinia the culture and traditions of Ethiopia date back over 3,000 years. The country has over 80 different ethnic groups all with their own language and traditions.

The physical attractions of the country are breathtaking. At Axum a city in northern Ethiopia, visitors can see 2,000 year-old stelae (monuments) carved out of a single piece of granite weighing hundreds of tons and standing as high as 33-meters tall (108 ft.).

Often called the Eighth Wonder of the World, Lalibela is the site where eleven churches were built out of solid bedrock over 800 years ago. These sites remain a place of worship.

Ethiopia is also home to the earliest human remains ever found dating back over four million years ago.

No study of man and culture would be complete without a visit to Ethiopia. Go to tourismethiopia.org.

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