African Americans march for civil rights in St. Augustine, Florida, 1963-64

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Timing
Time Period:  
1963
1964
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
St. Augustine, FL
Goals: 
Formation of a biracial city commission in St. Augustine government to address racial discrimination, End segregation of public institutions, Allow the hiring of African American city workers, policemen, and firemen, Drop charges against activists who had been arrested for nonviolent action during the campaign
 

As the nationwide struggle for civil rights in the United States, led by
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, continued into 1964, tension between civil
rights activists and the city government was rising in St. Augustine,
Florida. Public institutions remained segregated, and Klu Klux Klan
violence against African Americans increased, despite activists’
protests and pleas to the government.

St. Augustine, the oldest European-founded city in the country, had a
long history of civil rights activism, starting as an Underground
Railroad destination in 1738. St. Augustine’s first NAACP chapter was
founded in 1915. A number of student- and community-led nonviolent
actions had been organized and carried out through the early 1960s, but
had little widespread effect as individual actions that were not
centralized around a campaign with organized goals. The Black citizens
of St. Augustine were frustrated that most social institutions in the
city remained segregated.

In early 1964, leaders of the St. Augustine chapter of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), including Dr. Robert B. Hayling,
formed four main goals of actions they were leading as part of St.
Augustine’s campaign for civil rights. These goals included: (1) the
formation of a biracial committee in St. Augustine’s city government to
address discrimination in the city, (2) the ending of segregation in
public institutions, (3) the hiring of Black city workers, firemen, and
policemen, and (4) the dropping of charges against nonviolent protesters
taking part in the St. Augustine campaign for civil rights.

Hayling contributed significantly to the leadership of the St. Augustine
civil rights campaign. He became an advisor of St. Augustine’s NAACP
Youth Council (SAYC) in 1960, along with Rev. Goldie Eubanks. Hayling
had recently graduated from the Meharry Medical College in Nashville,
and had taken part in the Nashville civil rights sit-in campaign.

Nonviolent action to combat segregation took on a renewed energy as 1964
approached and city leaders began to prepare for a celebration of the
city’s “400th birthday.” The legislation for the celebration, written by
an all-white committee, described St. Augustine as “the oldest
community of the white race in the U.S.”

The first event of the celebration, in which Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated
a restored building with a banquet to follow, was originally to be
whites-only. Under guidance of Hayling, St. Augustine NAACP leaders
wrote Johnson asking him to cancel his visit because of the widespread
segregation in the city. This convinced Johnson to designate two tables
for Black people at the event. Johnson also told the NAACP leaders that
they would be able to speak to the City Commission the following day if
no one picketed the event. However, when St. Augustine NAACP leaders
arrived for their promised meeting, they were greeted by tape recorders
because white officials would not agree to meet with them.

By June 1963, when it became apparent that St. Augustine social
institutions were remaining segregated, Dr. Hayling led a small groups
of pickets outside a local Woolworth convenient store. Picketers
carried signs that read, “If We Spend Money Here Why Can't We Eat Here?”

A month later, sixteen SAYC members sat-in at segregated local lunch
counters. Police detained four of the arrested teens who sat in at
Woolworth’s -- Samuel White, Audrey Nel Edwards, Joe Ann Anderson, and
Willie Carl Singleton -- because their parents would not sign a form
pledging that the juveniles would not participate in protests until they
were age 21. A local judge sent these teens, who became known as The
St. Augustine Four, to the county jail for a month and to reform school
for five months.

On Labor Day, Dr. Hayling led a demonstration of over 100 participants
at the Old Slave Market in protest of the incarceration of the teens and
the failure of the city government to meet with local NAACP leaders or
create a biracial commission. The police intercepted the march and
arrested Hayling, Rev. Goldie Eubanks, and 25 other protesters.
Officials sentenced Eubanks to six months in jail.

In mid-September, Hayling and three other activists -- James Hauser,
Clyde Jenkins, and Jimmie James Jackson -- were observing a Klu Klux
Klan rally from a distance when Klan members found them, captured them,
and took them back to the rally. At the rally, Klan members beat them
and stacked them to be burned when the Highway Patrol interrupted the
rally. They arrested four white Klan members for the beating, along with
the four Black activists. The Highway Patrol charged the Black
activists with assaulting the 300 Klan members at the rally. The charges
against the white Klan members for the beatings were later dropped.
Over the next few months, the KKK and other white segregationists
committed a number of violent acts against Black community leaders,
including shootings, and the burning of a home and a car.

On February 10, 1964, Dr. Hayling went to the office of Florida Governor
Ferris Bryant to inform him of the need to protect Black citizens in
St. Augustine. On March 6, Dr Hayling, along with Henry Twine, Rev.
Goldie Eubanks, and Mrs. Katherine Twin traveled to Orlando to ask for
assistance from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC.

Over the month of March, SCLC began mobilizing northern allies to join
the campaign in St. Augustine. St. Augustine authorities arrested Mrs.
Mary Peabody, the 72-year-old mother of the Massachusetts governor and
the wife of an Episcopal Bishop, two other wives of prominent Episcopal
Bishops, Hayling, and others at a restaurant in March. Mrs. Peabody was
jailed for two days.

Over 150 Black high school students and supporters marched nonviolently
in protest. Hosea Williams led marches to the slave market and sit-ins
throughout the city. St. Augustine authorities arrested so many
activists over the month of March that there was only standing room left
at the county jail.

In early June at a press conference, Dr. Martin Luther King called for
nonviolent allies from around the South to gather in St. Augustine and
demonstrate against racial discrimination. Two days later, an unknown
perpetrator shot at the place where he was supposed to stay after
directions to it were published in the local paper. When King arrived in
St. Augustine, local authorities arrested him at the front of the
Monson Motor Lodge Restaurant.

Civil rights activists organized a number of nonviolent marches to the
Old Slave Market. Soon, white segregationists and Klan members began to
rally to intercept these marches with violence. On June 9, federal judge
Bryan Simpson ordered the St. Augustine police to allow and to protect
the peaceful marches.

On June 15, Jackie Robinson, the first Black major baseball league
player, traveled to St. Augustine to support the demonstrations and
speak at protests. Throughout the month of July, police committed a
number of violent acts against activists trying to use whites-only
beaches and pools. Marches toward the Old Slave Market continued.

Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on June 19, but did not go
into effect for a few weeks. During this time, the Klu Klux Klan’s
violent attacks on the marches to the Old Slave Market became more
intense. To try to stop the marches, Florida Governor Farris Bryant told
protesters that a secret biracial committee had been formed; however,
this was a lie. An attempt to form the committee was made in August, but
white members refused to join.

The events led by civil rights activists in St. Augustine put major
pressure on the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which led to
desegregation. The city hired more Black workers and dropped charges
against the nonviolent protesters. However, a biracial city commission,
another main goal of the campaign, was never formed.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Nashville sit-in campaign

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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Erica Janko, 02/02/2015