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Task Force Chooses St. Augustine, Not Eatonville, for Black History Museum

Florida - Wednesday May 22, 2024: A state task force is recommending a site in St. John's County, near St. Augustine, not Eatonville, as the location for a proposed Florida Museum of Black History. The site is an undeveloped area near St. Augustine belonging to Florida Memorial University.

The task force members submitted their rankings at last month's meeting, and yesterday, by a narrow margin, members of the Florida Museum of Black History Task Force voted 5 to 4 to ratify those rankings. St. Johns County came out on top.

St. Johns County and Eatonville were close in those rankings. But the averages were skewed by one task force member, Republican State Representative Kiyan Michael of Jacksonville, who gave St. Johns a perfect 110 and scored Eatonville 32 points lower.

Michael defended her scoring at Tuesday's meeting saying "Never did I deliberately tank any score to rise up another location. I took the information that was given me."

Advocates for the Eatonville site, like Orange County Democratic State Representative Bruce Antone, touted the town’s sustainability with tourism and local support and its ready-to-build location.

Antone sponsored the bill creating the task force but wasn't appointed to it. He has argued that St. Johns location lacks funding, and has no sustainability or feasibility plan or assurance that the proposed site can be used for development.

"This was a huge decision for the state of Florida, a huge decision," said Antone. "I knew we had one chance to get this right. And I think today we blew it. I know we blew it."