Commemorating Black History month with top places to visit in St. Augustine

SAM_0426-1By Jared Talbot |

Most know that St. Augustine is rich with history. It’s the oldest city in America, and is filled with Spanish architecture and museums to remember the city’s history.

Yet, what many don’t know is just how rich the city is with African-American history. St. Augustine is filled with landmarks, museums, houses and more that are important to African-American history. Between slavery, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement and even Martin Luther King Jr. himself, the city is filled with historical sites to visit. With February being Black History Month, there’s no better time to check some of these sites out. Here are the top 10 places to visit in St. Augustine to commemorate Black History Month:

10.) Former Genovar’s Opera House grounds on St. George Street

The great Frederick Douglass, who was an abolitionist, author, journalist and escaped slave, spoke at this opera house in 1889. It was located on St. George Street before being burned down in 1914. A historical marker was put in its place, which can be visited right near Pizzalley’s.

9.) Zora Neale Hurston House

Located at 791 West King St., this house was the residence of internationally-known black author, Zora Neale Hurston. It was her residence when she finished her autobiography back in 1942 and has a historic landmark at the site. The site can be visited by the public with a landmark that provides more information on Hurston’s importance.

8.) Whetstone’s Chocolates and Spanish Bakery

This bakery was once the home of General Jorge Biassou, leader of the 1791 slave uprising in Haiti. He then became a Spanish general. This location now has a historic marker in front of it and can be visited on North St. George Street. He was buried in Tolomato cemetery on Cordova Street.

7.) Butler Beach on Anastasia Island

This beach, located between St. Augustine and Crescent Beach, is one of Florida’s historic segregated beaches. It was developed by a 20th century African American, Frank Butler.

6.) The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center

Located off the very famous Martin Luther King Street, this building was the first public high school for African American’s. It is filled with historic memorabilia and displays to check out.

5.) Florida memorial College site

Those who think the first official college in St. Augustine is Flagler College are mistaken. Located on West King Street, the traditionally black Florida Memorial College was here for 50 years from 1918 to 1968, but was then moved to Miami where it became a university. The campus was demolished, and now all that remains are a few entrances and walls, as well as a landmark at the site. You can also visit the graves of the president and vice president of the college, Dr. N. W. Collier and Miss Sarah Blacker, at the Woodlawn cemetery.

4.) The Accord Civil Rights Museum

Located on 79 Bridge St., this was the first civil rights museum in the state of Florida. This museum is located in the former dental office of Dr. Robert B. Hayling, a leader of the Civil Rights movement in Saint Augustine and a member of the Civil Rights Hall of Fame in the state capital of Tallahassee.

3.) Plaza de La Constitucion in downtown St. Augustine

This big area includes the bronze footsteps of Rev. Andrew Young, who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and was beaten while peacefully protesting in St. Augustine. There is also a monument for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights movement, and from an earlier era, the plaza served as a slave market decades before the Civil War. Slaves were auctioned off and whipped here. Also across the street, the current Wells Fargo bank used to be a Woolworth’s diner where the first lunch counter sit-in took place in 1960.

2.) Fort Mose, a National Historic Landmark

Just beyond Schooner’s restaurant off U.S. 1 North is the site of a pioneer free black settlement dating back to 1738. It also has a small museum run by the Florida State Park service to explore. This is a must-see when visiting St. Augustine.

1.) The Freedom Trail

Here is your number one place to visit in St. Augustine to commemorate Black History Month. The freedom trail of 30 marked historic sites from the Civil Rights movement can be walked throughout St. Augustine and Lincolnville especially. With landmarks, displays and more you can explore where Martin Luther King led a peace march and the Civil Rights movement hit its peak in Saint Augustine.


Special thanks to St. Augustine historian and Civil Rights expert David Nolan for helping me tremendously with this piece. Reach out to him if you are ever in town, as he is an expert in the area. Make sure to check out all these historic locations as we celebrate Black History Month.

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