Celebrate Black History Month on Florida’s Historic Coast

A Place of History & Heritage for Many Peoples

St. Augustine, Fla. (January 25, 2018) - 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. In February 2018, visit St. Augustine to experience and celebrate this important part of our American story.

February 3: 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 8 – 10: Flight to Freedom
Many people do not know that the first underground-railroad in the United States didn’t head north, it headed south to Florida. Slaves fleeing slavery in the Carolinas and Georgia often headed to the fortified town of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, now known as Fort Mose, in search of freedom. Volunteers from Florida Living History, in partnership with Fort Mose Historic State Park and the Fort Mose Historical Society, offer visitors an opportunity to look back and glimpse the journey of the people fleeing slavery. Part of Florida Living History’s educational initiatives for Black History Month, the annual Flight to Freedom heritage event includes Freedom Trail guided tours, colonial Spanish military demonstrations and period culinary demonstrations. The event is from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Admission to the heritage event is free, but there is a museum admission fee of $2. Admission for youth ages 5 and under is free. 15 Fort Mose Trail, St. Augustine 904-823-2234 www.floridastateparks.org/park/fort-mose
February 17: St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours
Operated under the Tour Saint Augustine, Inc. and City Walks Tours, these 90-minute walking tours lead participants on a journey through St. Augustine’s black history. They include information about the first black Africans that came with the Spanish to Florida in the 16th century; information about Fort Mose, the first free black community in North America; St. Augustine’s historic Lincolnville neighborhood and the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine, including a visit to the St. Augustine Civil Rights Museum.  The tour costs $20 per person and departs from 4 Granada Street at 4 p.m.  Reservations are required.  www.staugustineblackheritagetours.com
February 17: Castillo by Candlelight: Stories of Fort Mose
Experience the Castillo de San Marcos after dark in this special, after-hours event commemorating African-American heritage through the eyes of a Freedom Seeker escaping to St. Augustine and Fort Mose. This special event in made possible through a partnership with the Florida Park Service, Fort Mose Historical Society and National Park Service. Tours for this ticketed event are available every half hour 6-8:30 p.m. $10 adults, $5 youth 5-15, and free under age 5. 1 S. Castillo Dr., St. Augustine 904-829-6506 Ext. 239 www.nps.gov/casa
February 22: Black History Month Special at the Corazon Cinema and Cafe
Lee Weaver, St. Augustine's own actor/playwright, presents The Witness about the Civil Rights struggle in America, especially in St. Augustine. This events takes place at the Corazon Cinema and Cafe at 7 p.m. Admission is $20. 36 Granada St., St. Augustine 904-679-5736 www.corazoncinemaandcafe.com
February 25: An Evening with Mavis Staples at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall proudly welcomes Gospel and Soul legend Mavis Staples to the stage. Staples is living, breathing history. She is an alchemist of American music, having continuously crossed genre lines like no musician since Ray Charles. Weaving herself into the very fabric of gospel, soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues, rock and hip hop.  Doors open at 7 p.m., and the performance is at 8 p.m. Admission is $78.50 and $68.50. 1050 A1A North, Ponte Vedra Beach 904-209-0367 www.pvconcerthall.com
Here are more ways to celebrate the African-American History Heritage and Civil Rights every day on Florida’s Historic Coast every day

Freedom’s First
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 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.

Walk in the footsteps of Dr. Andrew Young through the city’s plaza, a place where Dr. Young peacefully marched before being struck down in the street. True to Dr. King's non-violent strategy, these brass footsteps embedded in the plaza sidewalk honor Young’s walk in protest.  This video includes an interview with Dr. Young and explains the making of the Dr. Andrew Young Crossing memorial in St. Augustine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp83EJ2NXiQ
Also located in the plaza, the Foot Soldiers Monument is a 675 lb. monument featuring four life-size busts representative of the foot soldiers that engaged in peaceful protests in St. Augustine in the early 1960’s. http://www.brianowensart.com/stAugBronze.html 
St. Augustine Civil Rights Library
In 2013, Flagler College launched the http://civilrights.flagler.edu/, 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.

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

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

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. 

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