Flagler College is kicking off its first week of the school year not just with classes, but also with a commitment to preserving the oft-forgotten recent history of St. Augustine.
The Andrew Young Foundation is donating the archival footage of the documentary “Crossing in St. Augustine” to the Proctor Library. The donation of the archives took place at 4 p.m. Friday in the Flagler Room, an included an address by Ambassador Andrew Young.
The film covers interviews that civil rights leader and former UN ambassador Young conducted with numerous St. Augustine residents about the year 1964, when the city became a battleground in the struggle against racial segregation.
Together with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Young and locals led civil rights demonstrations in St. Augustine, which culminated in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
According to its website, the Andrew Young Foundation is a nonprofit organization Young established “to support and promote education, health and human rights in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean.”
The foundation will also be donating Young’s interviews with St. Augustine residents that did not make it into “Crossing in St. Augustine.”
CB Hackworth, the foundation’s media director, said that the organization decided to donate the footage to Flagler because of the positive reaction Young and his colleagues received when they presented the film in the Flagler College Auditorium in February.
“The reception was overwhelming,” Hackworth said. “I spoke enough with President Abare that I felt like it was more than a ceremonial thing.” Hackworth said he felt the college was taking a leadership position “to preserve history that needs to be preserved and right a wrong.”
Hackworth said preserving the footage will help to keep the stories of those St. Augustinians who fought for civil rights and racial integration intact.
“If somebody doesn’t get to them with a camera or a tape recorder…[these residents’ stories are] just going to be lost because these folks are getting older,” he said. “By and large, as far as the taping goes, every one of them had a whole lot more to say [in the interviews] that we could put in two hours.”
Mike Gallen, the director of library services at the Proctor Library, said both the foundation and Flagler will ensure that the experiences will be preserved by making them available to a wider audience. He said the documentary’s digital recordings will be moved to an online database, while the physical footage will be maintained at the Proctor Library for archival purposes.
“The intention of this is that these interview recordings…within this repository will actually form a foundation of information about the civil rights movement in St. Augustine,” Gallen said.
The online database will not just be accessible to Flagler students. Both Hackworth and Gallen said the civil rights-era footage will be available to anyone with Internet access.
Dr. Michael Butler, a history professor at Flagler, said the foundation’s donation of the archival footage to Flagler is but one of a series of steps the college must take to make the study of race relations permanent on campus.
“What I don’t want to happen is for someone to look at the donation as the end. It’s not,” Butler said.
Butler helped to organize Young’s presentation of “Crossing in St. Augustine” in February. He said St. Augustine still has a long way to go to achieve racial equality.
“There’s definitely mistrust between the races that’s not too below the surface,” he said.
Butler said Flagler can help bridge the divide by pushing for more diversity on campus. He pointed to the peculiarity of the foundation donating the documentary’s extra interviews to Flagler, a college with a predominantly white student body.
“I hope [the donation of the archives] has an effect to make the people in power on campus realize that talking about minority enrollment…is something to do because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Butler said the next step for the community after the donation of the footage is to plan for a civil rights museum in St. Augustine. He currently sits on a committee appointed to such a task, together with Gwendolyn Duncan, the president of the 40th Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations, Inc.
Other members of the committee include Flagler president William T. Abare Jr., Jacksonville businessman Richard Burton, Atlanta civil rights activist J.T. Johnson, local civil rights leader Dr. Robert B. Hayling and local historian David Nolan.
For now, Butler said he is excited about the possibilities the donation of this archive will bring to the college.
“I think my goal is for this to provide the foundation for an even bigger, more ambitious archive that Flagler is more intimately involved with,” he said.
During his speech Friday, Young presented the disc of the recordings to Butler, Abare and Flagler senior and history major Jillian McClure, whose interest in St. Augustine’s civil rights movement in the 1960s helped to facilitate the Young’s presentation of his documentary at the Flagler College auditorium in February.
Young spoke about the importance of preserving the history of events like the civil rights movement in St. Augustine so that people will know the importance these moments played in the shaping of the United States today. He said that U.S. citizens should demonstrate the level of unity that Southern civil rights activists used during the 1960s to address current national problems.
“I’m very suspicious of what’s going on in today’s world, and I think that the answers [to problems facing the U.S.] are going to come by and large from the South,” Young said.
As he presented the disc of the digital footage, Young reminded the audience of Flagler’s role in making the donation a reality.
“This is something you all started and we are proud to have been drawn into it and [to have] become a part of it,” he said.
Turing to McClure, he said, “And thank you, for getting all of this stirred up.”