Part 6: The Long Hot Summer

Journey 2016

Watch and read Part 6 (4:30 minutes).

A proud African American neighborhood must choose between freedom or security as “America’s Untold Journey” continues ….

There needed to be a new front opened in the fight against segregation, and there was no better place to do Leading this fight would be Lincolnville dentist and successful businessman, Dr. Robert Hayling.

A dentist and ex-Army officer, Hayling became the first Negro member of the Florida State Dental Society.  He joined the Civil Rights struggle after the dental group was denied meeting facilities at white hotels and restaurants because of his membership. Last summer, Dr. Hayling and an associate were badly beaten by KKK members when they ventured too close to a Klan rally.  Ironically, when the case was tried, Hayling was convicted of assault on the Klansmen. His appeal is now pending.

Inspired by the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Hayling organized local youths and began sending them into local whites-only restaurants.  On a hot July day in 1963, 14 year old Samuel White, 15-year old Audry Nell Edwards, 16 year old Willie Carl Singleton and 16 year-old JoeAnn Anderson went up to the Woolworth’s lunch counter and tried to order a hamburger and a coke. They were arrested, and later sentenced to one year in reform school. This harsh sentencing of peaceful children drew local and national outrage, putting a new spot light on St. Augustine’s racial unrest.

By the end of 1963, St. Augustine was rapidly developing national recognition as Florida’s Birmingham. In late December,  the National Wire Service listed the oldest city as one of 20 racial hot spots likely to explode in 1964. St. Augustine lived up to its billing.

St. Augustine, is merely a symbol of an expression, of the tragedies that engulf our whole nation in the area of race relations.  

The year is 1964 and protests have reached a fever pitch on St. Augustine.

The scariest night was when the klans and the others were down in the slave market. They had brought in a truckload of rocks and put it in the slave market so they would have to throw at us.

It was now that Dr. King became personally involved in St. Augustine’s struggle. His visit to Lincolnville brought things to a new level. Led by Dr. Andrew Young, King’s SCLC lieutenants began implementing strategies to break the will of the segregationists, but even these veterans of the movement were caught off-guard by the violence of St. Augustine’s white mobs. 

The Whites smashed through the lines of officers and disrupted the march. The Negros were attacked for perhaps half a minute before officers could halt the violence.  The march continued around the Plaza, and the Whites again broke through the lines on Cathedral Street, in front of the Catholic Church.

Egged on by the KKK and largely undeterred by the local Sheriffs’ office, the beating of peaceful protestors by white thugs had become a blood-sport on St. Augustine’s historic streets. 

But as freedom seekers soon discovered, the violence did not end at the water’s edge. Even a peaceful wade-in on St. Augustine Beach turned into a free-for-all of unbridled white anger.

Again last week about 100 civil rights marchers showed up at the public beach normally used only by Whites.

St. Augustine Beach is integrated by law by city ordinance. But by custom and habit, Negros use a section of the beach reserved for them a mile-and-a-half down the sand.

The special police force has employed boats to ward off the demonstrators.  They also have used a solid line of patrol cars to make the divisional line between the White segregationists and the demonstrators.

Shortly after negro and white integrationists arrive at the public beach. White segregationists appeared.

Then, the quiet beach has given way to violence. 

They attacked the integrationists with their fists, before the state troopers could prevent the assault.

The struggle for Civil Rights has reach a tipping point in St. Augustine and thru out America, but no one could have for seen the events that were about to take place.

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