TO KNOW THIS CITY -- FIRST KNOW THIS STREET
On a November night in 1921, two explosions rattled the Dream, a new movie house for black residents of St. Petersburg on Ninth Street S. No one was hurt, but the message was as loud as the blasts: Whites didn't want blacks congregating so close by. The theater closed, and as so often happened in the decades that followed, black residents were pushed out of the whites' way. On what was then the edge of town, African-Americans began to create a community of their own on 22nd Street S, a place nicknamed The Deuces.
Its seldom-told story reveals a St. Petersburg far different than the images of palm trees and sailing on Tampa Bay.
Neon glittered and energy crackled like a hot jazz band on The Deuces, once the busiest and most popular thoroughfare in the black community.
The now-desolate view at right was once its heart. The street's lively past vanished like a fading blues note as integration opened opportunities. But in this better world, residents also lost something: a community that could nurture and sustain itself with its stores, its schools, its skills, its people. Could such a place live again?