St. Augustine’s Significant Role in Black History
Celebratory and Educational Events All Month. Black History in St. Augustine.
By Ama Reynolds
February is Black History Month, and in St. Augustine, Florida, that history is long, deep, complicated, and much more significant than many of us know.
But, rest assured, this blog piece has nothing to do with doom. It is about remembrance, respect, celebration, and hope. For all. As each year passes, and the reins pass from one generation to the next, change gets on with itself in a positive way. Let us not forget–but remember, with love in our hearts, that change happens one prayer, one act of forgiveness, and one open heart to another.
St. Augustine’s significance to Black History cannot be overemphasized. From slavery to emancipation to segregation to the nonviolent civil rights protests that led directly to the passing of the Civil Rights Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, St. Augustine’s place in Black History is as strong as the roots of our old oak trees, and its history, thankfully, has been well-researched, documented, and continues to be told.
Get St. Augustine Black History Any Time of Year
Given the long and significant black history of St. Augustine, our ancient city honors the sacrifices and successes of African Americans all year long. Two such sources include Fort Mose State Park and St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours, Inc. And during Black History Month, we can look forward to special events, too.
Visit Fort Mose State Park
Open all year long, this award-winning park is the site of first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what would become the United States, unearthed during an archeological dig in 1986. Visit Fort Mose any day of the year for fascinating natural and historical activities you won’t forget. For a deeper experience, check out the Fort Mose Historical Society to learn more about this important U.S. National Monument’s history.
St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours
The St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours offer a wide variety of enlightening insight into our community’s Black History throughout the year. Tour offerings include include Educational Field Trips for young people, All-Inclusive Custom Group Tours, “Step On” Motorcoach Tours, Fort Mose and Castillo de San Marcos Guided Tours, free Black History Historic Tours, Religious Walking Tours, and a variety of Entertainment, Plays, and Character Performances.
The Who, What and Why Behind
St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours
“I believe the history of St. Augustine is incomplete when you leave out a whole segment of people who help to make St. augustine the city it is today,” says Bernadette Reeves, founder of St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours.
“What happened in St. Augustine…helped the whole nation,” she explains. “Because of the strength and bravery of the African American citizens in St. Augustine who stood up against segregation and discrimination, who took the beating and dogs and being arrested…helped get the Civil Rights Act passed.”
“Long after I am gone, young people will come along who know nothing of this history. If you don’t know your history– that goes for anyone’s history–it is bound to be repeated. And I don’t want this time of the 60s and before to be repeated ever again.”
Reeves researched this history exhaustively, backing up every piece of her information with hard and fast documents, dating all the way back all the way back to St. Augustine’s inception 450 years ago includes the history of Lincolnville (formerly called “Little Africa”), Emancipation Day in St. Augustine, and an important national holiday–Juneteenth, celebrated throughout the country from June 13 through Jun 19—which began when Galveston, Texas, slaves finally got the word of the Emancipation on June 19, 1865.
Fascinating St. Augustine Black History at Your Fingertips
2015 ST. AUGUSTINE BLACK HISTORY EVENTS
“Unsung Heroes”: Welcome to St. Augustine, The City Named After an African Saint
(Monday, February 16, 2015 | 10 a.m. and 12, 2, & 4 p.m. | FREE)
Honoring great African-Americans of St. Augustine, Unsung Heroes features dancing, singing, storytelling with an opening interpretive dance to the great Aretha Franklin version of “America the Beautiful”; a (short) spoken history lesson beginning with our city’s status as United States’ oldest European occupied settlement, rounded out with the story of Fort Mose; stories about the great African-American St. Augustine citizens; a musical piece from the play Hairspray–”I Know Where I’ve Been” as well as more storytelling; and a bring down-the-house closing with the powerful Sam Cook’s “A Change’s Gonna Come. Not to be missed!
Through the Darkness
(Monday, February 16 | Castillo de San Marcos | 6:30-8 p.m. | FREE)
Celebrate Black History Month and commemorate 450 years of the African American experience in St. Augustine with Through the Darkness: Exploring 450 Years of St. Augustine’s African Experience.
Middle Adult Ministry Civil Rights Walking Tour (March 7)
For details, contact St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours.
Black History Month Program @ Castillo de San Marcos
(Saturday, March 21 | 6, 7, 8, & 9 p.m.)
A civil rights play written and performed by Bernadette Reeves. For details, contact St. Augustine Black History Tours.
This is a time for our whole country to honor OUR history. It’s an education and celebration. Enjoy it.
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Photo Credits: St. Augustine Civil Rights Library, Fort Mose State Park, St. Augustine Black Heritage Tours, St. Augustine Historical Society Archives