Pensacola’s African American culture has its strongest roots in the Belmont-DeVilliers district of Downtown Pensacola. Back in the day the likes of Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Ray Charles, B.B. King and Aretha Franklin performed in local nightclubs as they toured the “Chitlin’ Circuit.” A historic marker designates this area as an official stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail celebrating its musical legacy.
The Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood has experienced a resurgence in recent years and is now home to Five Sister’s Blues Café and beloved neighborhood eateries including Blue Dot BBQ and The Dwarf Chicken Stand. Commemorate your visit by snapping a photo in front of one of the outdoor murals that illustrate the area’s rich history.
Take a tour of Historic Pensacola Village to see Julee Cottage, the home of Julee Panton, a free black businesswoman who worked to help slaves gain their freedom. A visit to the Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center allows you to listen to stories from the past and learn about the diverse influences that shaped our city. Nearby you’ll find the Chappie James Museum which honors Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr., the first African American four-star general in the U.S. Air Force.
Beachgoers to Gulf Islands National Seashore on Perdido Key can learn about the cultural significance of Johnson Beach. This pristine stretch of beach is named in honor of Pvt. Rosamond Johnson who died at the young age of 17 while rescuing three fellow soldiers in Korea. At the time of Johnson’s death, this beach was the only beach park in Escambia County designated for black use. Today, it is enjoyed by all and was recognized by USA Today as the No. 2 National Park Beach in 2016.
As you explore Pensacola, you’ll find traces of its African-American heritage at every turn. The highlighted experiences below are a great place to start planning your itinerary.