Tuesday, March 11, 2014

'Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience' is Exhibit on St. Augustine, America's First Free Black City

Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience

St. Augustine Celebration

This year, on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, we're also celebrating St. Augustine, Florida’s incredibly pivotal role in the lead up to this important American milestone.

Quick facts:

·         African-American heritage in the US begins in 1565 when blacks, both free and enslaved, were among the 800 colonists who established St. Augustine.

·         Africans were among the explorers and soldiers who first discovered Florida, sailing with Ponce de Leon and Pedro Menendez – not as slaves, but as soldiers in the service of Spain.

·         In 1738, slaves fleeing from the British were granted their freedom by the Spanish who occupied St. Augustine, Florida.

·         Fort Mose has also been recognized as one of the original sites on the southern route of the Underground Railroad.

·         On June 9, 1964, Civil Rights movement leader Martin Luther King was arrested in St. Augustine during  a protest for human rights.

St. Augustine holds a unique place in the history of African-Americans in North America as the location of the first legally sanctioned free African-American town in the nation. And from the time Spanish explorers stepped onto the shore of Florida, Africans had a place among the adventurous crew and among the earliest settlers.

St Augustine is celebrating African-American History month in February by telling the story of its role in history with a comprehensive exhibit called Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience along with a series of events in February and throughout the year.

African-American heritage in the United States begins 450 years ago when blacks, both free and enslaved, were among the 800 colonists who established the St. Augustine settlement under the leadership of Spanish explorer Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles. From St. Augustine's earliest days through the turbulent 1960s, African-Americans have played key roles in the development of both the city and nation. This vital contribution by people of color is well-documented, but not well-known. That is about to change.

Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience tells the fascinating story of blacks who helped settle the nation with original documents and artifacts, interviews, photos, art and more. The Journey exhibition is designed for cultural and heritage visitors interested in the full history of America and its beginnings and comprises four themes: Genesis of the African-American Experience; Fortress of Freedom; Breaking the Chains; and Crossroads of Change.

Among the fascinating and rarely seen artifacts in the Journey exhibit is the first known birth certificate of an African-American child, born in St.Augustine in 1595. A marriage certificate is also on display, a historic record that documents the earliest known marriage between two African-Americans in St. Augustine in 1598. The lunch counter of the local Woolworth's, where four young people made history in a 1963 protest, is on display along with photos that tell the story of the "St. Augustine Four." Perhaps the most compelling artifact is the arrest record and fingerprint card for Martin Luther King Jr., who was arrested in peaceful protest in 1964. St Augustine is the only Florida location in which Dr. King was arrested.

Journey is located inside the St Augustine Visitors Information Center and runs through July 15. The exhibit is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults; $4 for seniors; $3 for youth 7-12; under 7 free. www.Journey2014.com

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