TAMPA, Fla. — The state is moving forward with plans to create a Florida Museum of Black History. Earlier this week, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed the first three members of the task force who will plan the building and operation of the museum. The governor has been criticized in recent months for the state's new standards for teaching African-American history in schools and for banning public universities from spending on diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

What You Need To Know

  • Earlier this week, Gov. DeSantis appointed three members to the Florida Museum of Black History Task Force

  • The task force will submit recommendations for the construction and operation of the museum before July 1, 2024

  • The measure, introduced by Rep. Bruce Antone, unanimously passed the Florida House and Senate

Back in March, State Rep. Bruce Antone (D-District 41) proposed the idea for a museum to highlight Black history and culture in Florida. The measure unanimously passed both the state House and Senate and was signed by Gov. DeSantis in May.

The governor, Speaker of the House and Senate president will each appoint three members to the task force. DeSantis announced his three appointees on August 22, inlcuding State Rep. Berny Jacques (R-District 59). Jacques said he's always loved history and got his degree in it from Washington Advent University.

“My main task on this task force is emphasize that Black history is part of American history," Jacques said. "My focus will be to make sure that this is a museum that all can have pride in and come in and to see the contributions of Black Americans here in the state of Florida.”

According to the bill passed, the museum will discuss the state's history of slavery and segregation, highlight notable African-Americans and the contributions of Black veterans, including the Tuskegee Airmen. The bill also calls for the facility to have meeting rooms, a performing arts theater and banquet facilities.

Gov. DeSantis and some Republican legislators have been facing criticism for recent bills passed surrounding the state's African-American history curriculum and diversity programs at public colleges and universities. In May, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Florida, claiming the state is "openly hostile toward people of color" and devalues the contributions of African-Americans.

"Under the leadership of Governor Desantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon," NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement. "He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We're not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation."

Rep. Jacques said he disagrees with the NAACP's comments about the state, and said his goal for the museum is to create a unifying space.

“We need to make sure that we’re teaching all of the history," he said. "Here’s the facts, here are the exhibits, go visit it and see some of the great things that occurred in Florida and the contributions of Black Americans in Florida. A lot of times it gets totally overlooked.”

DeSantis also appointed Brian Butler, the CEO of JCB Construction, Inc., and Altony Lee, the Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs for the Board of Governors of the State University System.

The bill requires at least three of the nine task force members to have more than five years of experience either as tenured history faculty at a state university or in fields including archival preservation, research and building design.