By Cody Butler
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) – African American heritage preservation is getting a big boost of taxpayer money. The Florida African Heritage Preservation Network will get $800,000 from the state.
Historians said this money in the state budget will help museums like the Riley House in Tallahassee preserve African American history across the state.
“A lot of African American history, Black history, is in the reservoir of the people who lived it. The population that created it, which are blacks and African Americans,” said Florida African Heritage Preservation Network founder Althemese Barnes.
She said the network has been getting state money over the years, but this year’s investment is the most it’s ever received. The museums will split the money to pay for new exhibits and provide every museum with an intern.
Barnes said this state money is key.
“And now their value is represented,” she said. “Without this input, there would be, like it was, a gap.”
Tallahassee state Rep. Gallop Franklin fought to get the money in the budget in a year when many African American initiatives were vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. This year, DeSantis’s administration blocked schools from offering an Advanced Placement course on African American studies and signed a bill eliminating state funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Florida universities.
“We had to make sure we could communicate clearly the importance of history and that history should be taught at all times,” Franklin said.
Florida A&M University Black History professor Larry Rivers said these museums do just that.
“They are important in telling the story of the contribution that African Americans have made to the making of this society,” Rivers said.
For Barnes, preserving history for everyone to learn is vital, regardless of background.
“Each race had to play some part in making that change,” she said.
There are 30 museums in the Florida African Heritage Preservation Network from Pensacola to Miami. There will be a check presentation ceremony at the Eartha White Museum in Jacksonville on August 9.