By Erica Van Buren, Fort Myers News-Press
February 21, 2023

Charles Barnes at Black History Month Exhibit Historicizing the Black Resistance

The Williams Academy Black History Museum, a staple in the Dunbar community, highlights the accomplishments of historical figures that called Fort Myers home.

“The Williams Academy Black History Museum opened in January 2001,” said Charles Barnes, chairman of the Lee County Black History Society. “The building was an old schoolhouse built in 1912. It was actually the first government building funded to educate Black kids in Lee County. In 1995 the building was slated to be demolished by the Lee County School district.”

Barnes said Janice Cass, founder of the Lee County Black History Society, contacted the Lee County Superintendent and asked for the building.

“Janice explained to the superintendent the history of the building and what it represented to the community,” said Barnes. “He didn’t know the history. So he said “no problem.”

In February 1995 Lee County Black History Society with help from the community raised $15,000 to move the Williams Academy building to Roberto Clemente Park at 3265 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Next the organization with the help of the city and county planning board a Historic Preservation grant from the Florida Department of State helped restore the building.