Year of Publication

2014

Season of Publication

Spring

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Department

History

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of History

First Advisor

Dr. James J. Broomall

Second Advisor

Dr. David T. Courtwright

Third Advisor

Dr. Denise I. Bossy

Department Chair

Dr. Charles E. Closmann

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick

Abstract

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called St. Augustine, Florida, the most racist city in America. The resulting demonstrations and violence in the summer of 1964 only confirmed King’s characterization of the city. Yet, St. Augustine’s black history has its origins with the Spanish who founded the city in 1565. With little racial disturbance until the modern civil rights movement, why did St. Augustine erupt in the way it did?

With the beginnings of Jim Crow in Florida around the turn of the century in 1900, St. Augustine’s black community began to resist the growing marginalization of their community. Within the confines of the predominantly black neighborhood known as Lincolnville, the black community carved out their own space with a culture, society and economy of its own. This paper explores how the African American community within St. Augustine developed a racial solidarity and identity facing a number of events within the state and nation. Two world wars placed the community’s sons on the front lines of battle but taught them to value of fighting for equality. The Great Depression forced African Americans across the South to rely upon one another in the face of rising racial violence. Florida’s racial violence cast a dark shadow over the history of the state and remained a formidable obstacle to overcome for African Americans in the fight for equal rights in the state. Although faced with few instances of violence against them, African Americans in St. Augustine remained fully aware of the violence others faced in Florida communities like Rosewood, Ocoee and Marianna.

St. Augustine’s African American community faced these obstacles and learned to look inward for support and empowerment rather than outside. This paper examines the factors that vii encouraged this empowerment that translates into activism during the local civil rights movement of the 1960s.

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