Commemorating African-American History in St. Augustine

Visitors can attend the many events that detail the fascinating history leading up to the civil rights era.

  • In 1964 the country was in turmoil, and many cities like St. Augustine served as the battleground. There were many sit-ins, wade-ins, marches and peaceful demonstrations in the nation's oldest city during the civil rights era. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) were called to St. Augustine by local dentist and civil rights leader, Dr. Robert Hayling.

    Here, over the spring and summer of 1964, activists from all walks of life, from doctors to students and reverends to businessmen came together. Both Black and White people protested the injustices of segregation by standing, walking, sitting and swimming together. Their efforts led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and this year St. Augustine is commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the passage of that landmark legislation.

    Numerous events are being held around town, including art exhibitions, concerts, living history demonstrations and more, to celebrate the achievements of the civil rights era and the very powerful role St. Augustine and its citizens played in it.

    50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in St. Augustine Events:

    - Journey: 450 Years of the African American Experience Exhibit – January 20 – July 15, 2014. This exhibit showcases the history of African-Americans in St. Augustine.

    - "The Object Tells a Story: African American Folk Art from Florida" Exhibit – January 20 – February 28, 2014. This exhibition will feature four well-known African-American vernacular artists from Florida; Alynne Harris, Mary Proctor, Ruby C. Williams and Purvis Young. There will also be personal objects lent by members of St. Augustine's African-American community on display.

    - Flight to Freedom at Fort Mose Historic State Park – February 8. This living history event will take visitors along the treacherous freedom trail that escaped African-Americans took from the Carolinas to free Spanish-controlled Florida.

    - Discover First America! Program Series feat. African-American History
    February 26 – This live program will tell the story of Fort Mose, the first free Black settlement in St. Augustine.
    March 12 – This program will feature a special performance and preview of Flagler College's play, In White America. The play is a gripping look at life for African-Americans in pre-Civil Rights America.

    - "Someday" Concert for the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Right Act – with performances on February 28, March 1, March 2. This classical concert celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. It was written by Bob Moore, who is the composer-in-residence of the St. Augustine Orchestra.

    - Ideas and Images Speaker Series at Flagler College
    February 6th features a documentary titled The Loving Story about an interracial couple in the 1960s.
    February 20th features a visiting scholar from California on photography.
    March 4th features the film Freedom Riders; the interracial group that broke Jim Crow laws and made a statement by riding on a bus together through the South.
    March 6th features a lecture on country music and racial relations.
    April 3rd features a lecture on African-American history in St. Augustine.
    April 17th features a lecture from a visiting scholar on the civil rights era.


    2014 serves as a marker of the past, a reminder that just 50 years ago the nation's oldest city, with its cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings, was once so violent. Through this violence came peace and resolution, and now the City of St. Augustine will commemorate and recognize this past through these cultural and historical events.

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Updated: Thursday, December 30, 2021

Sarah Worthington