Black History

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The End of Slavery

During the Civil War, black St. Augustinians served in both the Union and Confederate armies. Their graves can be found in many of our historic cemeteries. Harriet Tubman, the famed "conductor" of the Underground Railroad, accompanied the Union soldiers who came down the St. Johns River during the war.

Former slaves established the community of Lincolnville in 1866 in the southwest peninsula of St. Augustine. Lincolnville is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in part because of its origins, in part because--given its time of development--it includes the greatest concentration of treasured Victorian architecture in the Ancient City, and in part because it was the launching place for demonstrations that led directly to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The famed abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, spoke here in 1889 at Genovar's Opera House on St. George Street.

St. Augustine's African-American Community

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

A thriving black business district grew up along Washington Street in the 19th and early 20th century. Frank Butler, the leading businessman, also developed Butler's Beach on Anastasia Island, one of the historic black beaches of Florida from the age of segregation. He also had real estate holdings in West Augustine around the campus of Florida Normal (later Florida Memorial) College, a black school--and St. Augustine's first college-- that was located here from 1918 until 1968. The internationally celebrated novelist Zora Neale Hurston was among its teachers. There is a historic marker at the house at 791 West King Street where Hurston lived.

The Fight for Equal Rights in St. Augustine

Dr. Martin Luther King in St. Augustine jail

Dr. Martin Luther King in St. Augustine jail

St. Augustine played a major role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Demonstrations began here with a sit-in at the local Woolworth's lunch counter in 1960 and grew to a crescendo by 1964 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led his last major campaign that resulted in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964--one of the two great legislative accomplishments of that movement. Dr. King went on from here to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. A street running through the heart of Lincolnville has been named in his honor.

There is a Freedom Trail of historic sites of the civil rights movement, honoring local heroes like Dr. Robert Hayling, dentist and organizer, and the St. Augustine Four (young teenagers who spent six months in jail and reform school for trying to order a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter).

Your visit to St. Augustine is incomplete without exploring the rich African American heritage that changed our nation's history and inspired the world.


 
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