The Jackson Rooming House
The Jackson Rooming House still stands tall at 851 Zack Street as one of the few remaining structures from the Jim Crow era in Tampa. The era of racial segregation was unforgiving to African Americans traveling through Tampa for work or performances. Notable hotels at the time would refuse people of color from staying in a room as well as employing them. It was not until a man by the name of Moses Jackson created a family business to give African American travelers a place to stay that this situation changed. Sarah Allen originally owned the house until Moses took over the property in 1903. He saw an opportunity when the home was located close to Union Station train depot, and famous African Americans were being turned away from hotels. Ray Charles, James Brown, Nat King Cole, and even Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s were just some of the notable individuals to stay there. The Jackson House was also located close to what was known as the "Harlem of the South" on Central Avenue. Despite being added to the National Register of Historic Places, the building is currently in a state of disrepair, requiring financial support to preserve the landmark. The building closed down in 1989, with the current owner being the grandson of Moses, Willing Robinson Jr. The building is currently fenced off due to the code violations and risk of structural integrity of the house. The non-profit Jackson House Foundation has been raising money to convert the building into an African American history museum. More recently, in November 2019, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lighting Jeff Vinik donated $1 million in efforts to preserve the structure. The Tampa Bay History Center and the University of South Florida libraries are working to preserve this building through virtual reality technology. Dr. Lori Collins, Research Associate Professor & Co-Director of the Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections (DHHC) at the USF Libraries, has set a goal to bring the history of the Jackson House to life for the general public. The virtual preservation of the house is essential as it presents a virtual tour of the building should it ever be torn down. The Jackson Rooming House allows us to remember a piece of history we often forget. The structure tells a story of Tampa during the Jim Crow era up to the Civil Rights Movement. The Tampa Bay History Center looks to preserve the history of the Jackson House by opening a virtual reality tour as an exhibit in 2020 from the collaborative work with the USF Libraries DHHC.
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