Black history comes to life online

By JOUNICE L. NEALY, St. Petersburg Times staff writer

ST. PETERSBURG — From a seat in a school’s library or a classroom, students can walk down a multimedia memory lane of the city’s black community.

They can watch interviews of longtime residents Clarence Givens, Bernice Barnes and Rubye Wysinger, flip through an electronic version of Gibbs High School’s class of 1947 yearbook take a trip through St. Petersburg as far back as 1868, before it was a city, or link to a Web site about the decolonization of Africa.

They can go a long way without going anywhere just by slipping a CD-ROM into a computer.

It is a tool that may make many a mouse click in Pinellas County public schools. The distnct is conducting a pilot program now on a version of the CDROM that also features quizzes.

Bus to Destiny, the version of the CD that is being introduced into schools, will premiere Saturday (February 20) at the second annual Olive B. McLin Community History Fair on Saturday from 12:30 until 5 p.m. at the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18thAve. S.

The history fair and the CD-ROM are part of a large community project that started out as a college research assigmnent in 1996.


Black baseball fans watched the game from segregated seats at Al Lang Field in 1950.

The project is a collection of old pictures, oral interviews and history facts compiled partly under the auspices of two University of South Florida professors, Jay Sokolovsky and Ray Arsenault. A graduate student at the time, Eric Chrisp, was the project coordinator.

The group also works with Juneteenth of Tampa Bay Inc., which was awarded a state grant to help put on the fair. Volunteers, including children, conducted some of the interviews for the project.

“Some of the history is very tragic. But we wanted to focus on the triumph over tragedy,” Sokolovsky said. And they wanted to do it high-tech, rather than the traditional approach to archiving history — building a museum, so much of the history project is on the Internet at

Because students in Florida’s public schools are required to learn African-American history, project organizers pitched the idea of having the CD-ROM in the classroom.

“Kids will think it’s cool,” Sokolovsky said.

Allen A. Buchanan, the producer of the special edition of the Bus to Destiny CD, gave a demonstration Tuesday to teachers and administrators at Boca Ciega High School, one of the six schools in the pilot program.

“It is a major resource tool for instructors as well as students,” Buchanan said. The CD-ROM offers links to other Web sites.

After watching the demonstration Catherine Ketchum asked Buchanan if he could install it today.

“I can start using this right away,” said Ketchum, an English teacher and multicultural specialist.

They don’t want to hear me give notes and lecture,” she said. “Kids like this stuff.”

This story, which originally appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on February17, 1999, is posted by permission of the St. Petersburg Times. Copyright 1999.