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Truly a Melting Pot of Multicultural Experiences

Pensacola is called the “City of Five Flags” because five governments have ruled here, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our culture is a jambalaya of flavors – Native American, African, Latin, European and Asian – each adding to the richness of our shared heritage.

The Pensacola Bay Area is a true melting pot. It’s not just on our street signs — it’s in our architecture and neighborhoods, it’s influenced our cuisine and customs, and it’s on the faces of our people. With centuries of history influenced by vibrant cultures from around the world, it’s easy to see why Pensacola’s historical attractions fascinate and delight visitors of all ages.

Native American Influence

Thousands of years before Don Tristán de Luna’s settlement attempt, the Pensacola Bay Area was inhabited by Native Americans. In fact, our city is named for the Panzacola Indian tribe that thrived here for centuries before European colonization. We continue to honor our Native American heritage with celebrations featuring native dances and foods.

European Influence

Spain was the first and primary empirical power to colonize Pensacola. Our city’s Spanish history is divided into three periods, beginning in 1559 with Luna’s ill-fated settlement attempt and ending in 1819 when Spain sold East Florida to the U.S. for $5 million. Plaza Ferdinand VII in Downtown Pensacola marks the site of the formal transfer in July 1821.

Like much of the South, Pensacola’s French influence can be traced back to Louisiana. The French and their Native American allies arrived by land and by sea to capture Pensacola in 1719. However, they suffered the same fate as the original Luna settlement, when they were driven out by a hurricane in 1722. Pensacola’s Mardi Gras, which dates back to 1874, is one of America’s oldest. These celebrations blanket the region, with dozens of Krewes of every stripe participating in parades, masquerade balls and festivals.

The British came in 1763, following their victory in the French and Indian War. After designating Pensacola the capital of the British West Florida colony, they established a trading post and strengthened Fort Barrancas. With the support of American rebels, the Spanish retook the city in the Revolutionary War’s 1781 Battle of Pensacola. Britain’s most substantial contribution to Pensacola is the layout of our downtown streets, centered around Seville Square.

African-American Influence

Africans were a large part of Pensacola history from Spain’s earliest occupation. Brought to our area by numerous empirical powers as slaves, it was their labor that built much of the city, including military fortifications, communities and the cotton plantations that formed the foundation of the 18th-century British period and early American expansion. At that time, African-American slaves made up 50 percent of Florida’s population. Pensacola’s Creole population rose as people from Africa, France, Spain and native Indian tribes mingled and intermarried. Today, we celebrate our rich African-American culture and heritage with a rich tapestry of music, food and festivities.

Immigrants from around the globe have added their influences – Greek, Italian, Irish, Scottish, Asian, Japanese and Indian. Today, visitors relish exploring our rich and diverse heritage, culture, art, music, cuisine and spirituality through year-round art shows, concerts, parades and festivals. Pensacola also offers a multitude of museums, sites and attractions that showcase our multicultural history.

T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Museum

The stunning three-story Mediterranean Revival building, constructed in 1907 to serve as Pensacola’s City Hall, is a star attraction in itself, but the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum also offers visitors an engrossing journey through local history and an interactive children’s museum. The highlight of Historic Pensacola’s flagship museum is the “City of Five Flags” exhibit, which covers the entire first floor and features engaging exhibits, immersive displays and one-of-a-kind artifacts.

The Voices of Pensacola

A project of UWF Historic Trust, Voices of Pensacola is a multicultural center designed to preserve and highlight the city’s diverse heritage. The center is filled with dynamic exhibits, murals and panoramas depicting people and events that shaped Pensacola history. Shop for unique gifts and books in the museum store. See and hear stories recorded by residents and visitors or record and share your own stories.

Belmont-DeVilliers

Pensacola’s historic Belmont-DeVilliers district lies at the heart of the local African-American community. Known as the “Harlem of the South,” the district had its heyday in the 1940s and ’50s when it was a popular stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit, a group of venues considered safe for African-American entertainers in the Jim Crow era. Pensacola drew a host of legendary performers, including Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, Fats Domino, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown and more. Today, the neighborhood is undergoing extensive restoration and revitalization efforts. Visitors can explore its history and experience the flavors of the Deep South with burgers and rib sandwiches at the Blue Dot Barbecue or soul food and live blues music at the Five Sisters Blues Café.

 

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