Dr. William Monroe Wells was one of the first Black doctors in Orlando, Fla., and used his resources to create a hub for African-Americans that exists today as a destination for the city’s rich Black culture. The Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture stands as a living testimony to Dr. Wells’ commitment to the excellence of his people.
In 1921, Wells, a Meharry Medical College graduate, opened the South Street Casino, which served as a venue for many popular acts from the so-called “Chitlin Circuit” of the day. In 1926, Wells opened the Wells’ Built Hotel, serving Black entertainers of all sorts in the state in response to the racial segregation that permeated the South. Famous names such as Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Coleman, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and many other notable figures were guests.
After being shuttered for 25 years, the location was transformed into the museum which opened in 2001. The 6,000-sq. ft. establishment houses a number of exhibits, including one dedicated to education pioneer and civil rights activist, Mary McLeod Bethune.
The Wells’ Built museum is one of the few remaining locations still standing that were originally listed in the “Green Book,” a resource for traveling Black Americans that highlighted businesses and hotels that would patronize them. The film “Green Book” which stars Mahershala Ali, won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the film for Best Picture in 2019
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