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Exhibit chronicles 500 years of Black history in the Tampa Bay area

The Tampa Bay History Center's "Travails & Triumphs" tells the story of "the communities and families they forged."

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay History Center opened its door for free this Juneteenth, allowing more than 1,500 people to experience its newest exhibit for the holiday.

"Travails and Triumphs" catalogs 500 years of Black history in Tampa Bay.

Museum curators say what you see at "Travails and Triumphs" is a complex "community history."

"We talk about hardships in the era of enslavement, but it's also about the triumphs of the Black community, the families they forged, the jobs they worked," a curator, Brad Massey, said. "It tells five centuries of Black history here in the Tampa Bay area, all the way from the first people of African descent that came over with the Spanish explorers to the protests of 2020 and even after that. So we wanted to tell a long story of the black experience here in Tampa Bay." 

For museum curator Fred Hearns, it's also a deeply personal history. His own marching band letterman jacket from his days at a segregated Middleton High School is featured as part of the exhibit. 

"I wore that jacket to school every day, I don't care if it was 95 degrees!" Herns said. "That jacket represents a world we were forced to live in, separate and apart. So it represents overcoming, that's what it represents to me." 

It's a piece of Tampa Bay history he hopes families will be able to experience for decades, including his own. 

Speaking of his daughter who was attending the exhibit on Juneteenth he said, "She can come back years from now and she has a son and maybe one day she will have grandkids, and they can come and see papas jacket up there." 

Tampa local Antwaun Hall took the opportunity to bring his three kids and their cousins to experience the exhibit. Hall said, for his family, Juneteenth is as much about celebration as it is about education. 

"This is not something that's always going to be taught in the classroom," Hall said. "So it's my job as their father to not only take care of their other needs but their intellectual needs as well."

'Travails and Triumphs' is a permanent installation at the Tampa Bay History Center which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

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