Black History

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St. Augustine has seen the African American experience from a very unique angle-from the first free black town to the final thrust for the Civil Rights Act. Racial struggles of the past have become dramatic victories of the present. In fact, some eyewitnesses of these events still live in St. Augustine today. Browse our stories and pictures. You're sure to find some interesting surprises.
Introduction to St. Augustine's Black History

Introduction

The rich African American heritage of St. Augustine should cause all history textbooks to be rewritten. By the time Jamestown was founded, Africans had already been in Florida for several generations.

St. Augustine's Black History Brochure

Black History Brochure

(PDF)
Download our points-of-interest map titled African Americans in St. Augustine.
It highlights landmarks and museums you can visit, enabling you to take your own Black History Tour. Contact us for printed copies.

Fort Mose: First sanctioned free black town in America

Fort Mose

The first legally sanctioned free black town in America was built in 1738 to help protect St. Augustine. Its residents had escaped English colonies to seek the sanctuary offered by Spanish Florida.

Jorge (Georges) Biassou: Spanish General in St. Augustine

Jorge (Georges) Biassou

African slave, Haitian revolutionary, Spanish general, and Florida's only black caudillo. When Jorge Biassou arrived in St. Augustine in 1796, he was already a legend in his own time.

St. Paul A.M.E. Church, St. Augustine, FL

St. Paul AME Church

Soon after the Civil War, the northern African Methodist Episcopal Church evangelized to ex-slaves in the South. An ex-slave in St. Augustine answered the call and started St. Paul AME in 1873. The church is dedicated to preserving its African-American heritage.

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

In seven short weeks, Zora Neale Hurston wrote the most popular novel in African-American literature, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Her worldly travels brought her in and out of St. Augustine.

St. Cyprian's Historic Episcopal Church

St. Cyprian's Church

St. Cyprian's is the oldest church building in Lincolnville. A local socialite raised funds to build it in 1900 so ex-slaves could enjoy their own Episcopalian church. Its beautiful Carpenter Gothic architecture offers a warm embrace to worshippers.

Slave Market

Public (Slave) Market

Many things were sold in St. Augustine's public market, including an occasional slave. Tour guides turned it into a novel attraction by calling it the Old Slave Market. Demonstrations here pushed congress into passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Dr. Robert Hayling

Dr. Robert Hayling

Dr. Hayling has been hailed as the "father" of St. Augustine's civil rights movement. Despite great sacrifices, he organized demonstrations and coordinated visiting activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King.

ACCORD Freedom Trail

ACCORD Freedom Trail 

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was contested in Congress until televised demonstrations in St. Augustine pushed legislators over the edge. See where and how local activists helped make it happen.

Juan Garrido

Juan Garrido

Juan Garrido was a free African conquistador who explored Florida with Ponce de Leon. After Ponce died, Garrido settled in Mexico City with Hernando Cortez. He is famous as the first person to grow wheat in the New World.

Excelsior Museum

Excelsior Museum

Excelsior School was St. Augustine's first black public high school. Its historic building is now a growing cultural center showcasing the city's rich African-American history.

 

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