Fort Myers History: African-American Landmarks and Historical Sites

    By Florida Division of Historic Resources Staff

    McCollum Hall served as a venue for Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and others and is an important part of Fort Myers history.

    Florida has a rich and diverse history.  African American landmarks and legacies exist in various locations throughout the state. The following historical sites can be found in Lee County.  While some of these sites can be visited, other listings are marked "private" and are not open to the public.

    Fort Myers History

    Centennial Park

    2100 Edwards Drive
    The “Civil War’s 2nd Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops” monument is dedicated to the black Union soldiers who defended a federal post in Fort Myers against the Confederates in 1865. A single black soldier standing before a wall with a gate represents the gateway to freedom from slavery.

    McCollum Hall

    Northeast corner of Cranford and Martin
    Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
    Constructed in 1938 by Clifford McCollum, Sr., McCollum Hall was a commercial center in the Dunbar Community. The second story held a large dance hall with a raised stage for live performances by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and others. During World War II, the second floor facility served as a USO for African American troops stationed at Page and Buckingham Fields. White residents and soldiers attended when big bands performed at McCollum Hall.

    Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church

    2754 Orange Street
    One of the oldest churches in the Dunbar community, Mount Olive’s congregation dates to 1895. Church services were held for many years at several locations, including the Lee County Courthouse, where the congregation was originally organized. The church was built at this location in 1929. (239) 332-0305.

    Paul Laurence Dunbar School

    1857 High Street
    Completed in 1927, the Dunbar School served as the “colored” high school for the predominantly black  Dunbar community and surrounding area. Prior to September 1925, educational opportunities for African Americans were limited to grades one through six. The masonry vernacular structure now houses community programs.

    Williams Academy Black History Museum

    1936 Henderson Avenue
    The first Williams Academy, built in 1913, was a two-story building located between Anderson Avenue and Lemon Street. It was the site of the first government-funded, black school in Fort Myers. When the second floor was destroyed by a fire, the building’s first floor was moved to the Dunbar campus between 1935 and 1937. In 1995, the building was moved to its current location. The “Living History Classroom” represents the 1940s era and other exhibits present the contributions of blacks to the development of the area.

    Adapted from Florida Black Heritage Trail, published by the Florida Department of State, in partnership with VISIT FLORIDA, copyright 2007. For more information on African American sites, please visit dos.myflorida.com

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