As people all over America celebrate Black History Month new lessons are emerging from a small town in Florida. St. Augustine was instrumental in shaping the dialogue of racial equality in our country.
It’s often not a story that gets a lot of attention.
By the 1960’s, Lincolnville had become a vibrant African American neighborhood – a stronghold of middle class values and commerce.
“Lincolnville was never totally segregated in terms of living. I can recall when I was a kid on the corner of, what is now ML King and Lincoln Street, there were a couple of grocery stores located in the immediate neighborhood that were owned and operated by Jewish families,” said Otis Mason.
“Oh we were a close-knit family of people. Now I had fun in Lincolnville, now,” said Essie Bush.
“We were not totally segregated, white families lived in the community as well,” said Mason
While its influence on the local economy grew… these advances were only going to go so far in the face of segregation.
“I could not attend the University of Florida. I went down for an interview it was very interesting about the results of my visit there. I was told that I spoke very well. That’s all I heard,” said Mason.
“My father was a teacher and he was told that if he participated in the movement, he would lose his job,” said Thomas Jackson.
Fearing retribution many of St. Augustine’s middle class blacks were either hesitant or silent about the growing Civil Rights movement.
There needed to be a new front opened in the fight against segregation, and there was no better place to do it than in a city about to celebrate its 400th birthday.