Online Archive Documents St. Augustine's Civil Rights Movement

By: Jodi Mailander Farrell


More than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act, a multimedia online archive documenting St. Augustine's role in the Civil Rights Movement is live and accessible t the public, thanks to a student-led history project at Flagler College in St. Augustine.

The website,, features never-before-seen items, including FBI files detailing Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in St. Augustine, as well as the surveillance the city was under both before and after MLK arrived.

Other items include details on the arrest of the St. Augustine Four, audio of Jackie Robinson’s visit, and civil rights archives from civil rights activist Andrew Young.

"We wanted to do something that paid tribute to people's stories," said Michael Butler, assistant professor of history, who helped lead the archive project.

The St. Augustine Movement was a civil rights movement that took place in St. Augustine from 1963 to 1964. It was part of the wider African-American Civil Rights Movement and had a role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

St. Augustine’s movement received international attention after northern college students descended on the city in the spring of 1964 for spring break to take part in civil rights activities. The massive non-violent campaign was led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which included Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young.

Young, who was beaten during a protest march in St. Augustine in 1964, attended the online archive’s unveiling last year at Flagler College.

“More and more, the events around this movement have not only shaped my life and your life," he told the audience, "but the world in which we live."

St. Augustine was the only place in Florida where MLK was arrested, on June 11, 1964, on the steps of the Monson motel restaurant. He wrote a "Letter from the St. Augustine Jail" to his old friend, Rabbi Israel Dresner, in New Jersey, urging him to recruit rabbis to come to St. Augustine and take part in the movement. The result was the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history on June 18, 1964, at the Monson motel.

Anybody can view the new civil rights archive online, but visitors to St. Augustine can learn more about Flagler College and its historic architecture on public, one-hour tours for $10 that depart daily from the college’s rotunda. (The campus is the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, a nationally designated historic landmark building, built by Henry Flagler in 1887.)

Another historic landmark worth checking out: The St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument near the corner of King Street and Charlotte Street in the southeast corner of the Plaza De La Constitucion, a prominent, historic public park. The monument, commissioned by the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Remembrance Project, was unveiled in 2011.

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