Although Spain didn’t free her own slaves until 1811, it was
only too happy to assist the slaves of rival British Colonies in
the New World to their freedom. In the colony of San Agustín,
known today as St. Augustine, about 12% of the population was
African and of those about one fifth were free persons respected
citizens of the colony. Is is any wonder that escaping slaves
from the Carolinas caught the Underground Railroad of the era
and headed not North but South to the welcoming Spanish colony
Here, in 1738, the first free community of ex-slaves was
established as the northernmost defense line of the colony and
called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose or Fort Mose.
Today, it’s Fort Mose State Park.
|The state marker in front
commemorates the site of Fort Mose
Should you visit in June, you could witness the reenactment of
the Battle of Bloody Mose. The original battle occurred during
an obscure war between Britain and Spain known as the War of
Jenkins’ Ear. Any other time might find reenactors inhabiting
the park. You will always find interpretive signage and a museum
to explain the significance of the park as well as the usual
hiking, kayaking and picnicking.
We visited the Harvest Time at Fort Mose. The event celebrates
the first harvest at Fort Mose in the fall of 1738. Settlers had
spent the spring, summer and early fall of 1738 building their
homes and the fort, planting their first crops and tending their
livestock. Florida’s Governor, Manuel de Montiano provided food
from the government stores for the new settlers until they could
harvest their first crops.
|A reenactor demonstrates how
early settlers made a fire at Fort Mose
I spoke with some of the reenactors. Thomas Jackson,
past-president and current treasurer of the Fort Mose Historical
Society, reenacts a militia soldier. He explained the role, “The
Spanish said the runaways could live free in Spanish Florida if
they would become Catholic and the able-bodied men joined the
militia. That’s why Fort Mose was established, to defend St.
|Andrew Batten displays the food
eaten at Fort Mose
||Thomas Jackson portrays a
Militia soldier at Fort Mose
Andrew Batten was a reenactor who worked with the food probably
eaten at that first harvest celebration. He explained how the
foods from different cultures blended here. “The Spanish were
much more open to using foods of different cultures than most
other European cultures.
Thus you find oranges, lemons and limes which they originally
brought from the Middle East and planted in Spain then brought
to Florida. The collard greens and black eyed peas came from
Africa and the pork to season them was from the first 200 pigs
De Soto brought to the new World in 1539. After four years
eating those pigs there were 800. The millions of wild hogs we
see today are all descended from those first 200 pigs.”
|A series of signs in front
tells the story of Fort Mose as pieced together by
The Battle of Blood Mose proved the value of the African
American militia to the colony. Since that time, St. Augustine
has offered opportunity to many Black citizens. One was Jorge
Biassou, one of the original leaders of the Haitian slave
uprising of 1791. He became a Spanish general and was sent to
St. Augustine in 1796. He was the second-highest paid official
in St. Augustine and remained there until his death in 1801. You
can visit his grave in Tolomato Cemetery on Cordova Street.
Ironically it was one of Biassou’s decendants, Henry Twine, who
as president of the local NAACP chapter almost a century and a
half later, worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil
rights movement to bring equality to the African American
citizens of St Augustine. He later became the first black
vice-mayor of St. Augustine and served as city commissioner from
1983 to 1992. It is largely through his efforts that Fort Mose
became a state park.
official state marker denotes his home at 163 Twine Street and
Twine Park, located at the intersection of Riberia St and
Lovett St. memorializes Twine and his wife, Katherine (Kat)
Twine, The area where the Twines lived is known as
|Freedom Trail Sign
commemorating the Twine's residence
It was established by a freed slave after the Civil War and then
was known as “Little Africa.” Today, it is a lovely district of
renovated Victorian homes, several of which have been turned
into bed and breakfasts. There is an annual Lincolnville
Festival to honor its roots. What was once the district’s only
Black school, The Excelsior Building, is now home to the
Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center.
It was where both Henry and Katherine Twine attended school in
the days of segregated schools.
|Actual sign that once graced
the Monson Inn
Thanks to St. Augustine citizens like the Twines, equality was
finally gained. ACCORD Civil Rights Trail has placed markers on
these buildings and places so you can visit many of the sites
that figured significantly in the Civil Rights struggles that
took place in St. Augustine during Dr. King’s visit in 1964.
|A guest studies the exhibits at
ACCORD President, Dalonja Ducan, gave us a tour of the museum.
The ACCORD Civil Rights Museum was once the home of Dr. Robert
B. Hayling, the dentist credited with bringing Dr. Martin Luthor
King to St. Augustine and forever removing the “White Only”
signs. The museum is small but packed with unique memorabilia
and priceless signed documents of prominent Civil Rights leaders
including Dr. King and Dr. Hayling.
Some of the artifacts are unique to St. Augustine like the
“Monson Motel” sign where so much of the activities took place.
It wa at this motel that Dr. King was arrested and put in the
St. Augustine Jail. He wrote a "Letter from the St. Augustine
Jail" to a friend in New Jersey, Rabbi Israel Dresner,
requesting support in the movement. The rabbi and his friends
responded leading to the largest mass arrest of rabbis in
American history on June 18, 1964. This also occurred at the
Monson motel as did the infamous incident where the motel owner
poured muriatic acid on a group of protesters peacefully
swimming in the pool.
This was where they arrested Mrs. Mary Parkman Peabody, the 72-year-old mother of the
Massachusetts for her efforts in the Civil Rights struggle.
An act that
focused the attention of the nation even more on the activites
occuring in St. Augustine. Some
are universal to the South, like the “Kelly’s Colored Tourist
Home” sign. Another thing the museum brings to life is Dr.
Hayling, the person, what his life was like outside of his Civil
Rights activities. His dentist office, lab and waiting room are
|Signed letters and photos from
||Typical of signs once seen
all over the South.
|Dr. Hayling was awarded St.
Augustine's highest honor.
Dr. Hayling paid a high price for his activities. There were
bomb threats; his home was shot into barely missing his pregnant
wife and killing his dog. When not of this stopped him, a group
of racist, abducted him along with several men involved in the
struggle, broke his ribs, knocked out some of his teeth
and smashed his right hand. Still he did not give up. When asked
by a reporter what he was planning, Dr. Hayling responded, "I
and the others have armed. We will shoot first and answer
questions later. We are not going to die like Medgar Evers."
|One of Dr. Hayling's work rooms.
The doll belonged to his daughter.
The round circle
in the floor was where a dentist chair once stood.
Perhaps my favorite exhibit in the ACCORD Museum is Katherine
Twine’s Freedom Hat. I love the story of that hat. It shows the
determination of people like the Twines and Dr. Hayling.
broad-brimmed hat with the inscription, "Freedom Now"
famous symbol of the movement. She wore it during
the Civil Rights Demonstrations, because due to the large
numbers of people being arrested, they were often forced to
stand long periods of time in an unsheltered outdoor stockade.
The hat’s broad brim gave her a bit of relief from the blazing
|Kat Twine's famous Freedom Hat.
Currently the ACCORD Museum is open by appointment only but in
the future it may have regular hours.
people of ACCORD wish to share the stories of the “heroes” and
“sheroes” –as they refer to them– of the local 1960s Civil
Rights Movement. You recognize the bravery of those
fighters in clips from "Crossing in St. Augustine" by Ambassador
Andrew Young, and "Dare Not Walk Alone," by Jeremy Dean
depicting the struggles in St. Augustine that many contributed
to the final passage of the Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon
Evidence that we have moved past those dark days is seen in the
marker and the Foot Soldiers’ Monument in the plaza housing the
former Slave Market. The corner of St. George Street and King
Street where Andrew Young led a march has been renamed Andrew
Young’s Crossing. On January 27, 1986, Central Ave was renamed
by the City of St. Augustine as "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The street bearing his name in St. Augustine is one of only two
upon which Dr. King actually led a march.
Another spot bearing a Freedom Trail marker is St. Paul AME
Church. Founded by a former slave, Richard James, the church had
kept the torch aloft for equal rights.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and many of the prominent
national Civil Rights leaders left St Augustine on July 1, 1964.
The fight here was not over completely but it was well on its
way. President Johnson spoke in Washington as he signed the
Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964 with Rev. King at his
side. Speaking of the racial violence and injustice, the
president said, “…it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the
foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our
freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign
tonight forbids it…”
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