The city of Apalachicola, Fla., is typically described as either a source of fresh seafood or a symbol of Old Florida heritage. While both characterizations are correct, the Southern heritage tourism frame selectively highlights sites of racist power and ignores the history of its African-American community, the Hill. Like much of the segregated South, the Hill was a self-sustained Black community with a commercial district, education landmarks, religious institutions, and social networks. Yet, the more published history of Apalachicola ignores it.
The Apalachicola Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines were developed by the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University architecture program. The BIPOC team included professors of architecture, landscape architecture, African-American history, and food sciences; a documentary filmmaker; an urban planner; and Hill residents. Funded by the Florida Department of State, the project highlights the potential of community engagement by BIPOC design professionals in the design and planning of rural minority communities.
The team recognized that the value of the community engagement was not the final drawings or the 3D-printed models, but the empowerment of a local nonprofit called the North Florida African American Corridor Project. The organization ensures sustainable change, encourages local leadership, and strengthens the community’s ability to advocate for its needs. In two years, the NFAACP secured a permanent building and external grant funds, established historical markers, and hosted exhibits and oral history events on the history of the Hill. The residents of the Hill are rewriting the history of Apalachicola.
Reviewed by Nupur Chaudhury and Lisa C. Henry
This article first appeared in the October 2023 issue of ARCHITECT, which was guest edited and designed by Dark Matter U.