Online Civil Rights archive to focus on unheard voices of St. Augustine

By Cassie Colby |

When thinking of the Civil Rights movement, images of police dogs and fire hoses mowing people down comes to mind. St. Augustine was once plagued with unimaginable segregation and daily violent outbreaks between whites and blacks.

Now, students and faculty at Flagler College are creating an internet-based multimedia archive to shed light on the troubling past, giving voice to so many who were involved in the St. Augustine Civil Rights movement.

Prominent Civil Rights activist Andrew Young donated many interviews from his documentary, “Crossing in St. Augustine” to the college. This donation will be the base for the multimedia archive Flagler is creating.

“The material being donated by Ambassador Young [to the college] will provide an excellent foundation for building a collection on the important role of St. Augustine in the Civil Rights Movement,” said Flagler president William T. Abare Jr. when the announcement was first made.

Young’s film showed the violent struggle in St. Augustine during the Civil Rights movement era in the 1960s. “Crossing in St. Augustine” focuses on the brutal attack on Young during a peace march with other activists in downtown St. Augustine.

His documentary has now led to the creation of the archive project and opened the doors for many stories to be heard. Flagler professors from graphic design, history and communication gathered together with Young’s fellow documentary filmmaker, C.B. Hackworth, to build an interdisciplinary team of students for this project.

“The idea [of the project] is that local people will learn a little bit about their own history, and may be be willing to share if they were in St. Augustine and contribute to the continuation and growth of the [Web] site,” said Michael Butler, an associate professor of history at Flagler and an avid Civil Rights and African American historian.

Butler and a handful of Flagler history students are aiming to present St. Augustine’s hidden history in an appealing, non-biased way.

“I hope my history degree will help me share my knowledge and passion with others, as well as using my skills to preserve the many stories of our beautiful city of St. Augustine,” said Deborah Shaw, a Flagler student involved in the project.

“The project is important because it will inform the masses about the Civil Rights movement as it existed nationally and locally,” said history student Michael Henley. “Too many people have forgotten about the presence of the oppressive Jim Crow laws up to the second half of the twentieth century. For me, it is great to be able to edify the public and to honor those who participated in the movement.”

Graphic design and communication students are also working on various elements of the project.

The students and professors hope to launch the archive website by the end of 2012. The site will be accessible will be anyone interested in learning more.

“We think it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved,” Butler said. “Not only that, but it has to be a group project. Flagler students couldn’t do it alone. Local people need a place to share their stories, and researchers need a place to go and obtain more information about this. What we hope is that this space will satisfy everyone’s needs in a variety of ways.”

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