Tampa in Hillsborough County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
St. Benedict the Moor School
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans Churches & Religion • Civil Rights • Education. A significant historical month for this entry is March 1816.
Location. 27° 57.987′ N, 82° 26.209′ W. Marker is in Tampa, Florida, in Hillsborough County. Marker is on N. 20th Street, on the left when traveling north. It is located about a half block south of Columbus Avenue on N. 20th Street in the northern part of Ybor City. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Tampa FL 33605, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Our Lady of Perpetual Help (approx. 0.3 miles away); La Quinta (approx. 0.3 miles away); Florida Sentinel Bulletin (approx. 0.3 miles away); La Joven Francesa Bakery (approx. 0.3 miles away); Ybor Centennial Park (approx. 0.3 miles away); Historic Fire Station No. 4 (approx. 0.4 miles away); Giunta Homestead and Farm (approx. 0.4 miles away); Mayor Nick C. Nuccio (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tampa.
Regarding St. Benedict the Moor School. Engraved on the sidewalk is the following poem:
The Saga of St. Benedict School
By James E. Tokley, Sr.
Tampa Poet Laureate
On this quiet, hallowed ground
In this space, where now, you stand,
Who dared reach out to tiny hands,
A convent school was started here
And where you stand, the front door swung
To greet God’s children, without fear,
To educate the poor and young.
Brave Sisters of the sacrament
So blameless in their sacred vows
In name of black St. Benedict,
Begat a school where we stand now.
And they, who nursed it with the milk
Of kindness, flowing from their souls,
Fed young minds, whose hopes may wilt
From a curse that held them, fast and cold.
For, theirs’ was a world of the color line,
Where the color of a person’s mind
Was second guessed and pushed to the back,
If the color of their skin was brown or black!
Thus, Benedict School was a fortress made
To house young hearts of every shade
Against the laws of local blight,
Who only welcomed what was white!
Please read as you continue walking,
More about the sacred building
Founded on Columbus Drive,
That kept black children’s dreams alive!
Come see with me, their youthful eves
So full with wonder and surprise!
They gathered here, where now you stand.
Do you doubt that this is holy land?
Do you marvel at the teacher’s hands…
Expressive hands, turned white with chalk
On blackboards, writing, swift
The answers to a learne’d walk?
Eight city lots were purchased,
Whose hope was they could work to bring
A church, a home wherein
Young voices could be taught to sing!
In Ybor City, where you walk
Around this block and stop and talk
Remember, not long ago,
Black children’s hopes were measured low!
The convent walls no longer stand.
Few pictures tell us how they looked
Nor how the rooms and halls were planned
No anecdotes in history books.
And yet, I do believe I see
These valiant women, full with dreams
Who wore their lives with dignity
And brought new life, new life, it seems!
They nurtured hope where none had been
Where black was not the color of men
Where women made of the darkest skin,
Could run no race that they could win!
Arrested elsewhere, though they were
St. Katherine’s mercy stayed with them
Though flames that seemed to re-occur
And a funding loss that would not end,
They taught no more than thirty-strong
Those first uncertain days,
Both homilies and freedom songs
Both “A,B,C’s” and gospel ways!
Young Stepin Fetchit, Hollywood’s host,
Learned here about the Holy Ghost,
And here perhaps, though sight unseen,
Played little Butterfly McQueen!
And so in 1952
Through all its trials and wistful years,
St. Benedict Moor, a convent school
Padlocked its doors and packed its tears!
Now stands beside us, the unseen
Since 1903, it has stood,
Yet now its presence is in dream
A ghost of that which once was good!
Kind stranger, just before you leave.
In silence, would you pray or grieve
Remembering what was once a school
Credits. This page was last revised on August 19, 2017. It was originally submitted on November 11, 2010, by Fr. Len Plazewski of Tampa, Florida. This page has been viewed 1,565 times since then and 42 times this year. It was the Marker of the Week May 22, 2011. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on November 11, 2010, by Fr. Len Plazewski of Tampa, Florida. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.