Black History Month on Florida’s Historic Coast
The storied past of Black American History is well documented and celebrated throughout the year in St. Augustine, Florida.
Black History Month gives us the opportunity to better share the important stories about black culture from the 16th century via the civil rights and today.
Best known for its Spanish and British history, the Nation’s Oldest City was significantly impacted by African American culture as well. From its beginnings during the Spanish age of exploration to the American civil rights era, African Americans have played key roles in the story of St. Augustine.
Africans were among the first to explore Florida upon its discovery. In the 1500s, they joined Ponce de Leon and Pedro Menendez as soldiers in the service of Spain.
Then African Americans established the first legally sanctioned free black settlement in the US in 1738. Escaped British slaves found freedom in St. Augustine by converting to Catholicism and joining the Spanish in defending their territory. Their home was chartered as the settlement of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, or Fort Mose for short, where free men and their families formed a militia and the northern defense post.
The summer of 1964 in St. Augustine was hot – as is every summer. But in this year, for the first time in the long history of the Nation’s Oldest City, the June weather was not the main topic of conversation. Instead, it was the daily struggle for (and against) civil rights taking place in the city’s ancient streets that captured the attention of millions of people worldwide. Starting with local protests against racial segregation, the marches and rallies soon attracted America’s most well-known civil rights leaders and organizers.
Black History Month is a time to recognize the pages from St. Augustine’s Black History. There are dozens of important historic sites that can be visited everyday throughout the year, and in February there are a several events, exhibitions, and programs that help tell these important stories.
Jan 19 – February 25: I Lived Here as Well – Together
This experience at Ximenez-Fatio House Museum tells the story of urban slavery from the perspectives of living and serving in the Ximenez-Fatio House during the 19th century and will run on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. The tour is open to the public, led by costumed historical actors, and lasts approximately 60 minutes. www.ximenezfatiohouse.org/ILHAW
February 4: Militia Muster and Training at Fort Mose Historic State Park
From 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. members of the Fort Mose Militia offer visitors the opportunity to participate in the children’s militia training, using wooden toy muskets and authentic uniform accessories. www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Mose
February 9-14: The Woman Behind Frederick Douglass: Anna Murray Douglass
The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center and the Women’s Exchange of St. Augustine will host and celebrate Anna Murray Douglass, wife of Fredrick Douglass, during a week of interactive, educational, social and fun activities at the Cultural Center and at the historic Peña-Peck House. The week will culminate with a celebration of Fredrick Douglass’ birthday on the 14th and a commemoration of St. Augustine’s many great thinkers and historic moments.
February 10 -19: Fort Mose Jazz & Blues Series
Over the course of two weekends, February 10-19, Fort Mose Historic State Park will host its second annual Jazz and Blues Series. This year’s edition features some of America’s most well-known and accomplished performers including the legendary Mavis Staples and Gladys Knight. The series consists of six unforgettable performances at the heart of Black History Month. Additional performers include Christian McBride’s New Jawn, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Rhiannon Giddens and Valerie June. https://discoverfortmose.com
February 25: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center presents the San Marco Chamber Music Society in a production of the children’s book “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport with an original score by composer Kevin Day. A quartet will perform the day composition and other arrangements during a multi-media presentation.