Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

450 Years Of The African-American Experience On Display In St. Augustine

You may be aware of St. Augustine's role in the civil rights movement in the 1960's, but how about it's role in the 1560's?A new exhibit that opens Monday at the St. Augustine Visitor Information Center takes a look at 450 years of the African-American experience in the nation's oldest city.

The exhibit is part of St. Augustine’s 450 anniversary commemoration. It shows how African-Americans were an integral part of St. Augustine’s founding including Fort Mose the first freed black settlement in America.

Historian and Freedom Road Productions creative director James Bullock said the exhibition demonstrates how St. Augustine is the birthplace of the American civil rights movement.

"The ability of people to work together of different backgrounds has perhaps never been easy but for us to know that people in our colonial past were able to achieve that should inspire us that we can do it," he said.

The exhibit includes the baptismal record of the first African-American birth in 1595 and the first African-American wedding in 1598.

Bullock said he hopes the exhibit will inspire others to think the future course of civil rights.

"I hope that this exhibit will provide some positive insights and to allow a healing to take place that our society has transformed and grown and that is an ongoing process," he said.

The exhibit also includes a section on St. Augustine’s role in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.

In 1964 protestors staged a sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter. The four were arrested and became known at the St. Augustine Four. They spent six months in a juvenile detention center before they were ordered released.

In 1964, St. Augustine hotel manager Jimmy Brock spilled acid in a pool where protestors were swimming. The incident led to the passage of the U.S. Civil Rights Act a year later.

Lifelong St. Augustine resident and civil rights activist Barbara Vickers said she hopes children will come to the exhibit and learn of their heritage.

"I'm so glad that it's here and is in the public for the young people to see because our young people don't realize what went on way back when and if they would come and see this exhibit I think it would wake them up and maybe they will want to do something more with their lives," she said.

The exhibit runs through July 15 and is open from 9 a.m-5 p.m. daily. Admission is free for St. Augustine and St. Johns County residents, military in uniform, and college and university students.

You can follow Kevin Meerschaert on Twitter @KMeerschaertJax.

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.