Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of History

First Advisor

Dr. Chau Kelly

Second Advisor

Dr. Albert Dorsey

Rights Statement

Third Advisor

Dr. David Sheffler

Department Chair

Dr. David Sheffler

College Dean

Dr. George Rainbolt


In 1968, the doors of St. Benedict the Moor’s school in St. Augustine, Florida, closed after nearly seventy years of service to members of the city’s African American community. But St. Benedict’s school represented a long tradition of black Catholic education in St. Augustine. Under Spanish rule, a boy’s school existed that offered equal education to blacks and whites. Florida’s possession by the United States complicated matters as territorial and state laws ended black education in the city, and the Catholic Church chose to side with the South over the issue of slavery in the United States. With the town’s surrender to Union forces during the Civil War, Protestant missionary societies from the North sent men and women to the city, and black education returned to St. Augustine. While these missionaries taught and evangelized in the black community, the Catholic Church looked to open a school to compete with these Protestants.

This project utilizes records related to the work of the American Missionary Association, the Freedman’s Bureau, and the Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph to produce a community study of black education in Reconstruction-era St. Augustine, Florida. These records show how religious differences between Protestants and Catholics shaped black schools in the Ancient City. A study of the AMA’s work in the city serves as a window into the broader Protestants attempts to educate African Americans during this period. Additionally, examining the Catholic response to African American education after the Civil War shows how the Church’s perceptions of black religious needs, cultural differences, and an increasingly hostile government contributed to a decline of black participation in St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.