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SPLC and Local Organization Continues to Challenge Florida’s Attempt to Rewrite History of Black Homesteading Community

On behalf of Young Performing Artists, Inc., SPLC submits second petition to National Register of Historic Places contesting Florida’s faulty nomination of Community of Royal 


ROYAL, Fla. — The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), on behalf of Young Performing Artists, Inc., (YPAs) recently submitted a new petition to the National Park Service requesting a thorough review of Florida’s nomination of the Community of Royal (“Royal”) to the National Register of Historic Places.  

This is Florida’s second nomination attempt. The Florida State Historic Preservation Officer (FL SHPO) first submitted the Royal nomination to the Keeper last summer. The YPAs then petitioned the Keeper, supporting the nomination overall while identifying significant deficiencies with it, including omission of qualifying properties and failure to adequately justify district boundaries. Last fall, the Keeper ultimately agreed with the issues raised in the YPAs’ petition and returned the nomination to the FL SHPO for corrections. 

On Feb. 2, the FL SHPO resubmitted Royal’s nomination to the Keeper without correcting the original problems and failed to include the community in the process, as the YPAs point out in its current petition pending before the Keeper.  

“We are disappointed that the state of Florida deprived Royal residents of their right to be heard on the second nomination to the National Register. It is hard to understand how, after having the nomination back for nearly five months, the FL SHPO is still getting it wrong and not truly addressing the issues raised by the Keeper the first time around,” said Beverly Steele, founder of the YPAs, the nonprofit that launched the effort to get Royal listed as Florida’s first rural historic district on the Register.  

The YPAs also seek to have Royal listed on the Register at the level of national significance, not just state and local as in the current nomination. However, the FL SHPO has refused to engage with this issue, even though the Keeper suggested that the state collaborate with the YPAs on determining the community’s eligibility for this highest level of significance.  

“While we continue to wholeheartedly believe that the Community of Royal deserves to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, we will continue to lift up the YPAs’ objections to the state of Florida’s flawed nominations,” said Kirsten Anderson, deputy legal director for Economic Justice at SPLC. “YPAs are requesting that the Keeper return the second nomination to the State with clear direction to work collaboratively with the community and the YPAs to ensure the production of a legally and technically sufficient nomination with no further delay.” 

Royal was settled in the 1860s by newly emancipated African Americans who obtained 40-acre or more parcels under the Homestead Act of 1862. Since then, many Black families in Royal have passed this land down over generations, despite the perpetration of racial violence and economic displacement that destroyed similar communities. 

“It is not only Florida’s history but American history,” continued Ms. Steele. “Seeking nomination to the National Register is about protecting and preserving this historic community from erasure by encroaching development that will do more harm than good for the people who live here.”