Celebrating Black History on Florida’s Historic Coast

Celebrating Black History on Florida’s Historic Coast

Fort Mose Historic State Park Photo Florida's Historic Coast

Posted June 13, 2024

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Best known as the nation’s oldest city, the mention of St. Augustine, Florida conjures up images of a centuries-old fort, swaying palm trees, glistening beaches, the Fountain of Youth, and an abundance of fresh seafood waiting to be devoured. But there’s so much more to Florida’s Historic Coast and much of that lies within the area’s Black history.

The History of Juneteenth in St. Augustine

During the American Civil War, St. Augustine was one of the few places in the United States where Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1862, actually freed slaves. However, it was not until June 19, 1865, that Union troops freed enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas. That date has been declared Juneteenth or Freedom Day – a national holiday.

Black History on Florida's Historic Coast Plaza de la Constitucion Foot Soldiers Monument

Plaza de la Constitucion Foot Soldiers Monument

Juneteenth Celebrations

On June 19, from 5-8 p.m., Ovico Gallery will commemorate Juneteenth with a special event where guests can immerse themselves in magnificent African art paintings while enjoying refreshments and live music.

The Lincolnville Museum & Cultural Center (LMCC) will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Civic Rights Act and the efforts of local activists with an updated Civil Rights Exhibit, opening on June 11, and free Guided Civil Rights Tours on June 11, 18, and 25. The tours will visit significant locations in historic St. Augustine. The LMCC’s annual Juneteenth Heritage Luncheon on June 15 features award-winning saxophonist Marcus Click, a conversation with Civil Rights activists from 1964, and a historic prelude to Excelsior High School’s 100th Anniversary.

Civil Rights activist, author, and former journalist Charles Cobb will speak at St. Paul AME Church’s morning worship service on June 16 and then join the LMCC at a reception celebrating the 100th anniversary of Excelsior High School, the first public Black high school in St. Johns County. On June 25, the Museum welcomes nationally acclaimed sculptor Dana King for an exhibit celebrating her work creating public monuments of Black Bodies in Bronze.

The St. Augustine Music Festival announces the return of its annual Juneteenth Recognition on  June 19. The event will feature the Marcus Roberts Trio performing a fusion of New Orleans meets Harlem, with a special tribute to the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The Splash Heard Round the World

In June 1964, while Congress was in a stalemate debating the Civil Rights Act, attention turned southward as St. Augustine became the epicenter of the fight for equal rights for all Americans. The nation’s oldest city made national news as peaceful activists faced violent opposition. One incident occurred at the Monson Motor Lodge. The segregated motel, owned by James Brock, the president of the Florida Hotel-Motel Association, became a flashpoint when white activist, Al Lingo, checked into the hotel and invited Black protesters to join him in the motel pool to swim. The site of an integrated swimming pool outraged Brock. He had an epic meltdown and ran around the pool, pouring powdered muriatic acid into the water.

This act of hatred became known as “the splash heard around the world.” The haunting photo made the front page of newspapers around the world. The following day the U.S. Senate finally broke its 83-day filibuster and passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Black History on Florida's Historic Coast

Fort Mose Historic State Park

Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

In celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, Florida’s Historic Coast announces a series of events highlighting the triumphant and courageous journey of Black Americans in the St. Augustine area.

The ACCORD Museum & Freedom Trail is celebrating the passing of the Civil Rights Act with three signature events. The Film Festival and Book Signing on July 1 offers documentary screenings and the opportunity to meet with seven authors, who will sell and sign their works. On July 2, ride the Freedom Trail Trolley Tour with renowned historian David Nola. The 9th Annual ACCORD Museum & Freedom Trail Luncheon on July 2 welcomes speakers Dr. Cynthia Mitchell Clark and Crystal Hayling, daughter of activist Dr. Robert B. Hayling.

A precursor to the Underground Railroad, Fort Mose Historic State Park was America’s first free Black settlement and the destination for African Americans traveling south in the 18th-century. Experience its Battle of Bloody Mose event on June 22. Volunteers re-enact the fierce surprise attack launched by the Fort Mose Black militia, Spanish soldiers, and Yamasee warriors to reclaim the fort from the sieging British and Scottish invaders.

On June 18, 1964, 16 Rabbis were arrested after they came to protest in St. Augustine after receiving a request for help from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society commemorates this act of unity with a presentation on June 18.

AccordTrail MLK Photo Florida's Historic Coast

AccordTrail MLK Photo Florida’s Historic Coast

Explore Black History on Florida’s Historic Coast  Year-Round

Black history on Florida’s Historic Coast is open for discovery throughout the year. Visit St. Augustine recently launched the St. Augustine Black History App. It is free to download on Apple and Google and integrates history with exploration, guiding visitors to culturally significant locations while supplying related historical information.

The Cultural Arts Center at the St. Augustine Beach Hotel recently unveiled a permanent exhibit commemorating Black History on St. Augustine Beach, including the 1964 wade-in protests. Just a bit south, the St. Johns County Parks and Recreation Department is hosting a historic beach walk beginning at Frank Butler Park East on June 12, focused on the beach’s namesake, influential Black businessman Frank Butler, and his place in Civil Rights history.

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