Racism and tourism have been persistent factors in St. Petersburg. Although, as social conditions changed, the city also altered its strategies to extract profits from tourists and to restrict African American contact with them. After the 1964 Civil Rights act dismantled the legal segregation of African Americans, the city of St. Petersburg could no longer pass blatantly racist resolutions. Therefore, city officials relied on subtle policies such as urban redevelopment schemes and interstate highways to discriminate against African Americans and attract tourists. Combined with hostile desegregation, the city either altered, destroyed, or divided the African American community to develop its tourist economy. Social networks and relations among African Americans were sacrificed. . . .
Almost twenty years after the Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools in Brown vs Topeka Board of Education, Pinellas county desegregated its schools. African Americans considered a major barrier to an open society had fallen. However, their children and communities would pay a heavy price for challenging the power structure of St. Petersburg and the county. Laws changed de jure segregation, but did not alter the years of conditioning that led whites to assume that African Americans were inferior. Therefore, their children were suspended, expelled, disproportionately placed in "emotionally handicapped classes" and given few opportunities to see African Americans in positions of importance. In 1980, nine years after the schools were desegregated, Doreatha Bennett, a parent, observed that in her granddaughter's school, there were no black students in leadership. She and others in the community concluded that black students were treated unequally in the schools. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ensured that they would forever be a minority by limiting their population in each school to a maximum of 30 percent. By 1980, eleven of the 33 middle and high schools did not have black administrators and black teachers comprised 11.6 percent of the population (the affirmative action goal was 15.8 percent). On June 23, 1992, thirty-two retiring African American teachers were interviewed by Peggy Peterman, a St. Petersburg Times journalist. Twenty-one years after desegregation they reported that there continued to be a dearth of black role models in the schools and a climate of cultural tensions. They observed that many white teachers are afraid of black students, and black students do not feel comfortable in the predominantly white schools. Even Howard Hinesley, superintendent of schools, acknowledged that whites don't have a significant understanding or appreciation for differences in cultures and a respect for African Americans. "We have culturally ignored some of the issues that bother the (black) students," reported Hinesley. The school board undermined the ability of African American community to transmit its cosmology through the school and endangered African American students by not addressing cultural differences between blacks and whites. The burden of desegregation fell unequally on African American children. Perhaps more devastating, the city's development plans destroyed communities. The preservers and anchors of culture were scattered and estranged by the planned destruction of the community. Hence, the African American community faced tremendous odds. As early as 1975, the African American community was physically separated by an interstate highway. . . .
The transmission of indigenous knowledge by a community to its youth endows them with the values of the group. Without a sense of continuity, the individual exists without appropriate skills for living. . . . When traditional means are no longer available to affirm one's sense of identity, alternatives are sought. . . . [T]he current rise in crime among youths is directly related to the disruption of their neighborhoods. African Americans, perceived as a threat to tourism, led city officials to create buffers between downtown and the black community. However, the city's plans backfired. The Suncoast Dome, renamed Thunder Dome is without a team. And many of African American youths the city sacrificed are creating havoc. They are endangering their own lives and the safety and security of citizens and tourists. However, it was the city's love for tourist dollars and its hate and fear of African Americans that created the problems the community faces.
(Evelyn Newman Phillips, Bus To Destiny: An Ethnohistorical Analysis of the Political Economy of Ethnicity Among African Americans in St. Petersburg, Florida, CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, emphasis added.)