Forgotten African-American graveyard

By Sarah Worthington, Kristin Kownacky and Daniel Arbealez |

Two separate graveyards share the same fence-line in West Augustine, but that’s all they have in common.

Evergreen Cemetery is a pristine, well-kept memorial park that faces the road; behind it is another graveyard, which is barely visible for all the weeds and thick overgrowth that covers its headstones. The fence that separates these two cemeteries is a racial dividing line.

“I was shocked the first time I saw that cemetery,” said C.B. Hackworth, Flagler College Professor and civil rights archivist. According to Hackworth the San Sebastian-Pinehurst Cemetery is known as the African-American graveyard.

The upkeep of this cemetery has dissipated since the owner of the property passed away in the 1960s. Since then the graveyard has largely fallen into disrepair. Many of the headstones are cracked, broken or hidden among the overgrowth of bushes, trees and vines that cover the cemetery.

County Historic Research Manager, Robin Moore said that this cemetery fell between the cracks when the previous owner passed away and there was no one left to take up maintenance. “When the organization went defunct, nobody was officially looking after the cemetery,” said Moore.

St. Augustine resident, Gwen Duncan has a hard time finding her family member’s plot due to the overgrowth of shrubs and vines. Duncan attributes the disrepair of the cemetery to the turbulent history of race relations in St. Augustine.

“There will be no trace of African-Americans here if things, if it doesn’t stop. You know, this racism…Racism is alive and well in St. Augustine, St. Johns County Florida,” said Duncan.

Hackworth believes the differences between San Sebastian-Pinehurst Cemetery and Evergreen are illustrative of the struggles in St. Augustine’s past. “I think it’s an embarrassment not only for St. Augustine-I’m embarrassed as a human being,” said Hackworth.

The local community and government both have good intentions when it comes to restoration and preservation of the San Sebastian-Pinehurst Cemetery.

“For a long term solution to the preservation of the cemetery it takes not only attention, but it takes devotion and love for the most part. I mean these are interred people that are associated with families,” said Moore.

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