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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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. 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.
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 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 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.