Florida’s Historic Coast Celebrates Black History Month in St. Augustine
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Winding throughout the streets of historic St. Augustine, centuries’ worth of African American heritage is alive and well, particularly as the city celebrates Black History Month this February with events and tours in celebration and memorial. From the free Africans who came with the Spanish to found the original 1565 settlement to pivotal roles in the Civil Rights Movement, St. Augustine’s rich history includes many stories of cultural significance.
St. Augustine proves why the African American story is one of our nation’s greatest strengths. Journey through these fabled streets and learn about the historical landmarks, museums and attractions that help shape the important story of heritage in the South.
“Many folks don’t really know the history of black people in St. Augustine.” Barbara Vickers, a 93-year-old St. Augustine resident said. “Many don’t know the city market had a slave block where they auctioned slaves off. “
Vickers, like many others in the community, has worked to memorialize African American history in St. Augustine by recording oral histories and creating a walking tour of African American heritage in the city.
“When Martin Luther King came here in 1964, I felt like there could be a difference,” Vickers, who participated in the St. Augustine marches, said. Since then, her goal has been to increase awareness of the history of black people in St. Augustine.
Below are a selection of tours and events to celebrate African-American heritage in St. Augustine:
- Visit Fort Mose – where in 1738, long before the Underground Railroad began, slaves escaped from the north to establish the first free purely African American settlement in America. They later marched in a local militia, which helped the city fight off the British. Today, visitors can experience the 40-acre waterfront historic site, see historical re-enactments and weapons demonstrations, and learn about the lives of this community’s first residents at the visitor center and museum.
- Militia Muster and Training at Fort Mose
Visit Fort Mose on the first Saturday morning of each month and become immersed in the 18th century. Members of the Fort Mose Militia come together to practice firing drills and teach new Militia members historic weapon use and safety. Visitors will experience historic weapons demonstrations including musket firing drills. Children of all ages will have the opportunity to participate in the children's militia training, using wooden toy muskets and authentic uniform accessories. Location: Fort Mose, 15 Fort Mose Trail, St. Augustine, 32084. For more information, call (904) 823-2232 or visit www.floridastateparks.org/park-events/Fort-Mose.
- Flight to Freedom
Walk with reenactors from the Fort Mose Historical Society on the Freedom Trail, the first “Underground Railroad” and learn the story of hundreds of people who fled to Spanish Florida from enslavement on British indigo and sugar plantations in South Carolina in the 1700s.
Location: Fort Mose, 15 Fort Mose Trail, St. Augustine, 32084. For more information, call (904) 823-2232 or visit www.fortmose.org.
- Explore Lincolnville Historic District– a neighborhood that played a major role in United States history. Named one of Visit Florida’s “Must-Sees for African American History and Culture,” the neighborhood was once referred to as “Africa.” Several demonstrations in the city led directly to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was in the oak-shaded streets of Lincolnville where Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed while supporting local civil rights movements. The 450-year-old town in Florida is the only place in the state where Dr. King was arrested. The neighborhood was also home to the man who taught Ray Charles, once a student at the local school for the deaf and blind, to read music in Braille. It also boasts the city’s largest concentration of Victorian homes.
- Explore African American Heritage via local Tours
- St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours Inc.
Further your learning and understanding of the African-American Journey with a FREE guided tour through 10 different historical sites. www.staugustineblackheritagetours.com
- Accord Freedom Trail Self-Guided Audio Tour
Follow markers describing civil rights-related events and people at more than 30 sites on the Freedom Trail. Brochures for the Freedom Trail’s self-guided tour are available at the St. Augustine Visitor Information Center in Downtown, St. Augustine.
- Explore the Legacy by African-Americans to the Game of Golf
“Honoring the Legacy: A Tribute to African-Americans in Golf” is a celebration of the accomplishments of African-Americans in the game and a testament to their love of the game despite facing steep challenges. Developed with the support of the PGA of America, the PGA TOUR and the USGA, this permanent exhibition at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine 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. http://www.worldgolfhalloffame.org
For more information and a complete itinerary to learn about African American heritage in St. Augustine, visit www.historiccoastculture.com.
About St. Johns Cultural Council
The St. Johns Cultural Council is a 501 c 3 not-for-profit agency. Under agreement with the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners, the SJCC provides arts, culture and heritage tourism destination marketing services to the county’s Tourist Development Council (TDC). Funding for marketing services comes from a portion of the county’s bed tax. For more information, call (904) 808-7330 or visit www.stjohnsculture.com.