In 2005, St. Augustine's first public high school for Black children was re-invented as the Excelsior Museum. Now called the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center, this important site in St. Augustine's History has been a center of Black education since 1902 when the school (then referred to as 'School #2') first opened. The museum's hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.
The museum features several displays about St. Augustine's Black heritage and history. Their exhibits trace the stories of Black people in Florida from the beginning — from Juan Garrido's arrival in La Florida alongside explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513, all the way to the city's present-day figures. Prominent exhibit topics include the music, businesses, and military service of Black St. Augustinians.
Black people (African Americans AND African-descended people from other countries) have played a significant role in St. Augustine's history for the whole of her 450 plus years. The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center showcases this rich history, which includes periods of triumph and strife. When restrictive laws like the "Black Codes" allowed unjust arrests and suppressed civil rights, Black entrepreneurs focused inward and created a thriving business district. When segregation and violent racism from the Ku Klux Klan became too much for Black St. Augustinians, local activists banded together to protest, which earned the support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and national attention from the press.
One protest which caught the eye of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. occurred in July of 1963, when JoeAnn Anderson Ulmer, Samuel White, Audrey Nell Edwards, and Willie Carl Singleton entered the local Woolworths. These brave teenagers sat at the "Whites Only" counter to order a hamburger and were taken to jail for this 'crime.' Though they were minors, the police put this group — now called 'The St. Augustine Four' — in an adult facility, intimidated them, and attempted to convince them to betray Dr. Robert B Hayling, the leader of the local NAACP chapter. The St. Augustine Four stood strong throughout these attempts. They were praised by Jackie Robinson and called "my warriors" by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center now has an exhibit that recognizes the St. Augustine Four. A section of the original Woolworth lunch counter has been preserved to commemorate the civil rights history of St. Augustine and sits amongst the other informational plaques and artifacts in the Lincolnville Museum. Truly a special addition to the museum's collection and a powerful part of history, this original counter is displayed in the same room as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s fingerprint card from his 1964 arrest in St. Augustine.
In addition to their exhibits, the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center presents an annual jazz festival series, "Lincolnville Jazz at the Excelsior," and hosts various speakers, scholars, and historians for events that are open to the public.
The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center offers everyone a chance to see St. Augustine through the eyes of the town's Black community. To learn more about the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center, visit our history section or read our article "Black History Museums in St. Augustine."