by Eric Barton | February 16, 2021

A Capital City Black History Tour

Travel to Tallahassee to experience the best of the city’s black-owned businesses and historic African American communities.

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It’s one thing to read about the African American trailblazers who shaped the Sunshine State, but it’s another to immerse yourself in their world. Rather than flipping through a textbook, walk where exceptional Black educators, activists, artists and more have gone before on the culturally rich streets of Tallahassee.

The Capital City was home to a host of vibrant Black neighborhoods and even welcomed the likes of Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles back in the day.

Stroll the neighborhood where the first black police officer grew up and climb the steps of the Knott House, where a Union brigadier read the Emancipation Proclamation in Florida for the first time.

While we set out to build a 36-hour itinerary devoted to Tallahassee’s African American culture, we ended up instead with a long weekend, a 72-hour adventure that not only educates but immerses visitors in black history.

THURSDAY

7 p.m. Mo Betta BBQ

3105 Apalachee Parkway

Begin the weekend with some of the city’s best barbecue from this food truck on the Apalachee Parkway, serving up everything from ribs, brisket, chopped pork and chicken.

FRIDAY

10 a.m. Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum

445 Gamble Street

Located in a historic Greek-columned building on the campus of Florida A&M University, the center has preserved African American history since 1971 and serves as a good start to a weekend soaking in Tallahassee’s rich black culture. While you’re there, be sure to peruse the Kinsey Collection, which showcases items spanning from the 15th century though the Civil Rights era, including Phyllis Wheatley’s poetry book and letters from author Zora Neale Hurston.

12 p.m. Olean’s Café

1605 S Adams Street

Olean’s has served up big plates of Southern cooking for 20 years from a spot across from FAMU. Owner Olean McCaskill adorns the walls with photos of her family and FAMU legends, offering its own tour of local black history.

2 p.m. Florida A&M University

1601 S Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

Head back to the FAMU campus for a stroll around the historically black land-grant university founded in 1887. Make a pit stop at the symbolic Eternal Flame, which burns atop an obelisk to commemorate the university’s designation as Time Magazine’s College of the Year in 1998. Don’t forget to snap a selfie with the new 1,800-pound bronze rattlesnake that guards the Center for Access and Student Success building as a keepsake.

6 p.m. Island OMG Seafood

1019 N Monroe Street

The popular Thomasville, Ga., restaurant opened a new location in Tallahassee in 2020, and it quickly became a top spot for the Friday night fried fish and shrimp boils that are a tradition in the black community. 

8 p.m. Black on Black Rhyme

812 S Macomb Street

Poets, signers and spoken-word artists gather Friday nights at Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine and Spirits. If you catch the bug, return Tuesdays for open mic nights.

As the Capital, we are modeling the steps that other cities should be taking to sustain their rich and historic culture.
— Katrina Tuggerson, president, Capital City Chamber of Commerce

SATURDAY

10 a.m.  John G. Riley Center and Museum

419 E Jefferson Street

Educator and civic leader John G. Riley built his home in 1980 in the downtown black community of Smokey Hollow. Its exhibits on black history in Tallahassee earned the museum a top 10 spot on Black Entertainment Television’s list of “Must See African American Places in the U.S.”

11 a.m. Civil Rights Sidewalk

120 E Jefferson Street

On your way to lunch, take a detour along this heritage walk that honors 50 Civil Rights activists in just half of a block. Terrazo panels memorialize Tallahassee trailblazers including Patricia Stephen Due, who participated in the lunch counter segregation protests of the ’60s, and the Rev. C.K. Steele, aptly referred to as the Martin Luther King Jr. of the Capital City.

12 p.m. Earley’s Kitchen

1458 S Monroe Street

Earley’s slogan, “honest goodness,” sums up the comforting soul food served up by longtime mainstay Earley’s, known around town for its jumbo biscuits and fried chicken.

2 p.m. Soul Voices of Frenchtown Walking Trail

Corner of N Macomb Street and W Virginia Street

Explore what was once a hub for African American businesses as you tour Frenchtown, one of Tallahassee’s historic black communities. Nine markers offer audio components featuring the voices of prominent Frenchtown residents.

4 p.m. Gurlies Lemonade and Sweets

2110 S Adams Street

Before a relatively healthy dinner, reward yourself with an afternoon snack of “grandma-made” treats like fried Oreos and cheesecake-topped funnel cakes.

6 p.m. Hemplade Vegan Café

707 Old Bainbridge Road

Take a break from rib-sticking Southern food with an entirely plant-based menu full of pizzas, smoothies, natural juices and pizzas.

8 p.m. Bradfordville Blues Club

7152 Moses Lane

Known to locals simply as the BBC, Bradfordville Blues Club has represented the local blues community from its location on the north side of town for more than a half century and feels like a trip back in time to the juke joints of old. If your vegan dinner doesn’t hold you over, go for Miss Ernestine’s fried catfish. And although the BBC is currently closed due to COVID-19, keep an eye out for virtual Facebook events and hopefully live performances returning to the stage sometime later this year.

SUNDAY

10 a.m. Mural Tour

Soak in the work of muralists with a trip to see two of the city’s African American murals, one dedicated to Rosa Parks and the other recognizing the Black Lives Matter movement.

12 p.m. CC’s Kitchen

2415 W Tennessee Street

Big platters of crawfish, shrimp and blue crab get dressed up at this food truck with flavored butters, including a spicy voodoo butter.

2 p.m. Essential Stops

Spend your final afternoon hitting must-see spots for an African American tour of the city, including the First Presbyterian Church, Greenwood Cemetery, Cascades Park and others.

6 p.m. 509 Caribbean Cuisine

2450 Springhill Road

Haitian and Caribbean fare shines at 509, with dishes like stewed chicken served alongside macaroni au gratin and rice and sweet plantains—a flavorful end to a tour of Tallahassee.


Photography courtesy of Visit Tallahassee and Florida A&M University