African-American History and Heritage on Florida’s Historic Coast
A Place of History & Heritage for Many Peoples
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St. Augustine, Fla. - You may recognize St. Augustine for its Spanish and British cultural history, but did you know that the nation’s oldest city has a significant African history as well? From its earliest days through the turbulent 1960s, African-Americans have played key roles in the story of St. Augustine.
Sit quietly in the natural preserve that is Fort Mose state park where people from different countries came together as equals in a shared cause – freedom in a land of their own. In 1738, slaves fleeing from the British were granted their freedom by the Spanish who occupied
St. Augustine. In exchange for converting to Catholicism and pledging to join the Spanish in defending the territory from their enemies, these former slaves found a home of their own. That settlement was Fort Mose, where free men and their families formed a militia and the northern defense post for the nation’s oldest city.
Actually, freedom in St. Augustine goes back even further for African-Americans. Africans were among the explorers and soldiers who first discovered Florida, sailing with Ponce de Leon and Pedro Menendez – not as slaves, but as soldiers in the service of Spain.
Fort Mose has also been recognized as one of the original sites on the southern route of the Underground Railroad. In 1994 the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The grounds include a sundrenched boardwalk with interpretive signage that details the life and heritage of these first free Black Americans. The park’s museum features exhibits and historic reenactments are scheduled throughout the year.
Fort Mose is located at 15 Fort Mose Trail, less than 5 minutes from the historical attractions, restaurants and shopping of the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine.
The Civil Rights Movement and St. Augustine
St. Augustine played a pivotal role in the nation’s Civil Rights movement. On June 9, 1964, Civil Rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in St. Augustine during a protest for human rights. Alongside King was Andrew Young. Young led a night march from Lincolnville to the Constitution Plaza where he was met with violent opposition. Young and his group of demonstrators were beaten by a white mob of 300 armed men who had waited for the marchers to arrive. The activists, being true to Dr. King’s non-violent strategy, walked away injured, many taken to area hospitals.
Other significant events in this volatile time in history include protest of the “St. Augustine Four,” who caught the attention of the country with the simple act of sitting at the Woolworth’s counter.
In St. Augustine, people were caught up in something bigger than themselves. Politics, protest, progress – it all happened here.
Find out more about the oldest city’s contentions and contributions to civil liberties in America
St. Augustine Civil Rights Library
In 2013, Flagler College launched the Civil Rights Library (www.CivilRightsLibrary.com), an extensive online archive that was the culmination of years of research and collaboration between faculty, students, historians and people who lived in and visited St. Augustine during the tumultuous times of the civil rights movement. The student-led project features never before seen items including FBI files detailing Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in St. Augustine, as well as the surveillance the city was under both before and after MLK arrived. Other items include details on the arrest of the St. Augustine Four, audio of Jackie Robinson’s visit, and civil rights archives from Andrew Young.
Accord Freedom Trail
The ACCORD Freedom Trail Project consists of 31 historic markers located at various sites significant to the St. Augustine Civil rights movement. A cell phone audio tour is available by calling 904-335-3002. Learn more at www.accordfreedomtrail.org.
St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours
St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours offer free Historic Walking Tours focusing on Black history and the Civil Rights movement in St. Augustine. http://staugustineblackheritagetours.com
African Americans in Sports
Explore the World Golf Hall of Fame "Honoring the Legacy" exhibit that celebrates African- Americans in golf. This exhibition contains rare photographs, audio, video and memorabilia to highlight the long, rich history of African-Americans in golf starting with pioneers from the late 1800s through today’s game. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a sculpture designed by the renowned artist Mario Chiodo which celebrates 13 African-American golf legends and represents an historic timeline of African-Americans in golf. For more about this special exhibit visit www.WorldGolfHallofFame.org
WAYS TO CELEBRATE AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, HERITAGE AND CIVIL RIGHTS
Every Saturday - Free Civil Rights & Black Heritage Tour
City Walks & Tour St. Augustine Inc. sponsor the Black Heritage & Civil Rights History Walking Tour. This hour long walking tour explores the Lincolnville Historic District, the Plaza and other areas involved in this unique heritage of St. Augustine. The tours are free and require advance reservations. Tours depart from the Tour Saint Augustine office at 4 p.m. 4 Granada St., St. Augustine. 904-825-0465 www.StAugustineBlackHeritageTours.com
By Appointment: ACCORD Civil Rights Museum
Discover St. Augustine’s role in the struggle for Civil Rights and the city’s pivotal influence in the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Housed in the former offices of Dr. Robert Hayling, a local dentist who was instrumental in getting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to personally participate in the efforts to desegregate the Oldest City, the museum features numerous artifacts and documents relating to the local Civil Rights movement. Admission is by appointment only. Contact Liz Duncan at 904-347-1382. Admission is free (donations accepted).
79 Bridge St., St. Augustine. www.AccordFreedomTrail.org
First Saturdays - Militia Muster and Training at Fort Mose Historic State Park
From 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. members of the Fort Mose Militia offer visitors the opportunity to participate in the children's militia training using wooden toy muskets and authentic uniform accessories. This is a chance to take a fascinating glimpse into the past at the site of the first legally-sanctioned free black community in the United States. Admission is $4 per vehicle or $2 for pedestrians or bicyclists. 15 Fort Mose Tr., St. Augustine. 904-823-2232 www.floridastateparks.org/fortmose
February - Flight to Freedom at Fort Mose
Each year in mid-February at Fort Mose the Flight to Freedom event recreates the 17th century experience of the hundreds of slaves who traveled here in search of freedom. Visitors will enjoy the guided Flight to Freedom Trail, lined with several re-enactors portraying the various characters who would have impacted a freedom seeker's journey to Spanish Florida. 15 Fort Mose Trail, St. Augustine. 904-823-2232 www.floridastateparks.org/fortmose
March - Annual Commemoration of the Founding of Fort Mose
The founding of Fort Mose in 1738 is the central theme of programs presented throughout the day, including programing and discussions about the role of slavery in the struggle between Spain and Britain for control of the southeastern United States. Admission is $4 per vehicle or $2 for pedestrians or bicyclists. 15 Fort Mose Trail, St. Augustine. 904-823-2232 www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Mose
June - Fort Mose Historical Society Golf Tournament
The Annual Fort Mose Historical Society Golf Tournament takes place at the Cimarron Golf & Country Club. An individual golfer’s fee is $85 and a team of 4 is $340 which includes greens fee, cart fee, player gift pack, a chance at great prizes and awards reception with buffet dinner. Become a sponsor of the Fort Mose Historical Society or find out more information at http://fortmose.org/component/content/article?id=37.
June - Battle of Bloody Mose
This annual re-enactment of the June 26, 1740, Battle of Bloody Mose provides visitors with an exciting look at this pivotal battle between the British under the command of Georgia’s James Oglethorpe and the Spanish militia composed of former British slaves who had been granted their freedom by the Spanish. On Saturday, the program is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with battle re-enactments. Florida’s Living History will present scenes from one of Spain’s oldest plays, Nuevo Mundo, by Lope de Vega. On Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors can meet re-enactors portraying the various Spanish, British, African and Native American groups present during the battle. The event is weather permitting. Admission is $4 per vehicle or $2 for pedestrians or bicyclists. 15 Fort Mose Trail, St. Augustine. 904-823-2232 www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Mose
Located midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida’s Historic Coast includes historic St. Augustine, the outstanding golf and seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra, and 42 miles of pristine, Atlantic beaches. For more information on events, activities, holiday getaways and vacation opportunities in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com, become a fan on Facebook or call 1.800.653.2489.