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St. Augustine's "hidden" African heritage

As Norma and I travel down the east coast, we are inspired and educated by the efforts many places go to to tell their true story. Peeling away the "American Mythology" that we were taught in school and showing us the true stories that lie underneath it.


There were people here for many thousands of years before the European colonizers arrived. And many museums, the Fisher's Island Museum and the Museum at Plymouth in particular, go a long way to help us understand who these people were, how they lived, and what was their point of view of how their land and rights were taken from them. Many other places are going further to show us who was really here first, who they were and how they lived.


We are also impressed by the effort that many places are making to show how what we see now, the wealth of the past and of the present, was created not by the wealthy landowners but by the enslaved and indentured people who they brought here. And we also learn the details of what happened to them and their decendendants once (leagalized) slavery finally ended in the U.S.



Then we come to St. Augustine. This place is like a historical Disneyland, with thousands of tourists flocking the historical (now shopping) district and riding around in hop-on-hop-off busses and trams of many competing companies. The story they are told is of the French, the Spanish, the British who settled here long before the places we learn of in (the British version of) U.S. History (Jamestown, Plymouth Rock.) But the story the tourists are NOT told on the tour is how the place was built by enslaved and indentured people. Even the location slave auction lot is marked by a small sign which only mentions slaves on the last line.


From the story of the slaver, Zebidiah Kingsly, Norma and I knew that he often traveled to the slave market here to buy and sell his human "property". So we set out in search of some more information of this part of St. A's history. Today, on our last day of our visit here, we asked about it at the Governors Mansion museum and the young woman there gave us a brochure and map which highlights the African American history here. We asked he why this information is not more prominent in St. Augustine and she used the word "discomfort." Stop reading right here and Google the two words "Florida discomfort". I need not say more about this topic.


Norma and I followed the map into Lincolnville and found there what we were looking for. Unfortunatly today was Sunday so the museums were closed and we are leaving tomorrow morning, but this part of town was where the people of African descent settled after the civil war and during segregated times. I think it was a free black community before then. In past blogs we have spoken of the three-caste system of the Spanish versus the two-caste system of the Americans.



I want to highlight one place we stopped and the wonderful woman we met there. There she is in the photo of the Corner Market. If St. Augustine has an entrepreneur of the decade, it should be Nyk Regine'. She was just opening the store as we were listening to the A.C.C.O.R.D. freedom trail audio tour entry for her building. Inside are a few dining tables a pastry case with yummy looking treats inside, shelves of books and other goods including her variety of beet relishes, and some homemade chocolate truffles. We bought a jar of wonderful BeDil BeDatil, Datil Pepper Beet Relish, and a truly wonderful chocolate truffle, also made with datil pepper. Nyk told us of several items that she makes for other St. Augustine restaurants, she showed us art created for a recent art show she held at the corner store. You should check out here two online shops: RoyalBeets.com and IridescentChocolates.com. Please visit her sites and read about her, she is really a special lady.


I want to end with another quick historical note worth following. Martin Luther King was arrested here, protesting at the Monson Motor Inn. The story is much deeper than that and I suggest following the two links to read two parts of the story. Following the arrest, a "wade in" protest occured and the owner of the Inn was caught on camera pouring a gallon of what he said was acid into the pool. Well the day that photo ran in the Washington DC newspaper was the day that the heavily filibustered Civil Rights Act passed in the U.S. Senate. The site of the hotel is now a Hilton Hotel and I mention this because THERE IS NO SIGN OUTSIDE THE SITE COMMEMORATING THIS IMPORTANT EVENT IN U.S. HISTORY. I guess they do not want the tourists to feel any "discomfort."


Tomorrow morning we depart St. Augustine on our way to Datona Beach and the "Space Coast" including Cape Canaveral!


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