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What kind of museum should be set on the grounds of historic Roosevelt High?

Two groups want a Black history museum, but Roosevelt grads say the museum should be about local, not state black history
Posted at 7:16 PM, Mar 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-11 20:39:44-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — For almost 20 years, graduates of Roosevelt High School have been trying to convert the rubble of their historic campus, into a local Black history museum and that's where the controversy begins.

"We feel betrayal,” Cora Studstill Perry said.

Perry is a graduate of Roosevelt High and a leader of the Historic Roosevelt Unity Coalition. She and other coalition members fear their Roosevelt High could become the site of a statewide, not a just local black history museum.

"This is our history. This is Palm Beach County's history. Not state history," Perry said.

"And our museum should be the priority,” added fellow coalition member Leah Gaines. “This museum should be the priority."

Cora Studstill Perry Historic Roosevelt Unity Coalition 03112024
Historic Roosevelt Unity Coalition leader Cora Studstill Perry explains the group's efforts in turning the historic site into a museum that focuses on the Black history of Palm Beach County.

The Palm Beach County School Board earmarked $51 million for a Palm Beach County black history museum.

This group fears that while a statewide museum might bring more visitors to the area, it would also water down legacies of scholars, athletes, and community leaders who attended Roosevelt High School.

"And now, we feel that someone else is coming behind us and have not provided the hard work that we have provided," Perry said.

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Historic Roosevelt Unity Coalition member Leah Gaines explains how the museum should be a priority.

Some directed their fury at State Senator Bobby Powell. Powell sits on the state task force that will choose the site of the statewide museum.

Members of the coalition confronted Powell at their news conference in front of Roosevelt High School claiming he’s assisting efforts to make Roosevelt the host of a Florida Black History Museum.

Investigative reporter Dave Bohman asked Powell if he had a choice between a statewide Black history museum, or a local one that would focus on Palm Beach County, what would he choose.

State Senator Bobby Powell 03112024
State Senator Bobby Powell shares how other communities across Florida are competing to host a Florida black history museum, and a decision is expected by the end of June.

“I think the opportunity to really look at it and see what the community wants," Powell said. He added the concern of the group of Roosevelt High graduates was fueled by several Palm Beach County community leaders who presented a plan to the statewide task force, and used Roosevelt High as the site.

"So we feel all of our efforts have been co-opted," Gaines said.

Powell said a handful of other communities across Florida are competing to host a Florida black history museum, and a decision is expected by the end of June.

Gaines said there are no plans to go to court. They just want to convince the Palm Beach County School Board, to keep this a local museum.