Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. MLK, the City of St. Augustine, and Racism

 

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I was reminded of the trips we have made to St. Augustine, FL.

When tourists go to St. Augustine, many focus on the local fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, the candy factory, or listen to commentary about the countries that fought for control of Florida. On one of our trips, however, we located a quiet part of town, a neighborhood of discreet older homes with nicely trimmed lawns. These homes are a testament to the resilience of, and commitment to, the City of St. Augustine by the black community:

Founded in 1866 by former slaves, the district remained relatively static until the late 19th century. Segregationist practices that swept the South between 1890 and 1910 spurred the growth of black owned and operated commercial enterprises. Washington Street in the district became the heart of the black business community. In 1877 the “People’s Ticket” that included black Republican D.M. Pappy, a leader in the Lincolnville community, swept city elections. By the early 20th century Lincolnville was a major subdivision of St. Augustine with a high level of political participation among its residents. In 1964 St. Augustine became a focal point for the Civil Rights Movement.

Please note how far the black community had come before the Civil Rights Movement.

As we walked through this quiet, charming neighborhood, I was struck by its contrast with the violence and controversy of the sixties. On some of the lawns of the homes, we saw small signs indicating that Martin Luther King had stayed there. I realized that the Rev. Dr. King, Jr. had been moved from house to house (safe houses) as a way to discourage anyone who might want to hurt or even kill him. There is no documentation of how many days he stayed with residents, or all of those he stayed with, although one house in which he stayed was shot at.

King was determined to shine a spotlight on the discrimination against blacks in the South:

On June 11th, 1964 King was arrested on the steps of the Monson Motel for trespassing when he and others attempted to eat at the establishment which had a whites-only policy. After King and followers refused to leave, Jimmy Brock, the manager, had them arrested and they spent a night in the old St. Johns County Jail (now the Detention Center Annex.) This made national headlines and started a buzz around the civil rights movement in the south – which is just what King wanted to accomplish.

Walking through this area of St. Augustine is a significant reminder of the racial struggles this country has experienced and how very far we have come.

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  1. Stad Thatcher

    I wonder what the early civil rights leaders would think of blacks self-segregating themselves today . . .

    • #1
    • January 19, 2020, at 8:32 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    I wonder what the early civil rights leaders would think of blacks self-segregating themselves today . . .

    That is a great question, @stad. In fact, any civil rights leaders who are still living today should be ashamed of their message that racism is a serious problem in our society. I think MLK would be thrilled with the progress–and angry at the ways blacks have been disempowered by the government and by themselves.

    • #2
    • January 19, 2020, at 8:35 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. PHCheese Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    I wonder what the early civil rights leaders would think of blacks self-segregating themselves today . . .

    That is a great question, @stad. In fact, any civil rights leaders who are still living today should be ashamed of their message that racism is a serious problem in our society. I think MLK would be thrilled with the progress–and angry at the ways blacks have been disempowered by the government and by themselves.

    Racism is a serious problem at the margins just as anti-semitism is. Both are sadly part of human nature. This may never change.

    • #3
    • January 19, 2020, at 8:56 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Those poor black people, having to live in a village named after such a notorious racist president. 

    • #4
    • January 19, 2020, at 9:27 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    TBA (View Comment):

    Those poor black people, having to live in a village named after such a notorious racist president.

    Leftists completely ignore the fact that the blacks in Lincoln’s time greatly honored him. I think they had a better sense than others at the time that Lincoln had to free them strategically and carefully. Whenever he appeared, blacks wildly cheered him; that’s hard to believe with the propaganda we hear today.

    • #5
    • January 19, 2020, at 10:21 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Thanks for this piece of American History. 

    • #6
    • January 19, 2020, at 10:36 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Stad Thatcher

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    I wonder what the early civil rights leaders would think of blacks self-segregating themselves today . . .

    That is a great question, @stad. In fact, any civil rights leaders who are still living today should be ashamed of their message that racism is a serious problem in our society. I think MLK would be thrilled with the progress–and angry at the ways blacks have been disempowered by the government and by themselves.

    I don’t mind if blacks (or any group of people) want to hang out together. Self-segregation of like-minded people for some reason is okay – freedom of association.

    But to demand colleges build separate dorms, and to have separate graduation ceremonies, that is something totally different. It’s demanding officially sanctioned segregation, which isn’t any different from the officially sanctioned segregation by those who wanted blacks to sit in the back of the bus . . .

    • #7
    • January 19, 2020, at 11:35 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Stad (View Comment):
    It’s demanding officially sanctioned segregation, which isn’t any different from the officially sanctioned segregation by those who wanted blacks to sit in the back of the bus . . .

    You are right! Also, with the blacks who have demanded these changes, I think many are doing it out of their own racism toward whites–in spite of their saying they can’t be racist. Not so.

    • #8
    • January 19, 2020, at 11:40 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  9. Rodin Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    [A]ny civil rights leaders who are still living today should be ashamed of their message that racism is a serious problem in our society. I think MLK would be thrilled with the progress–and angry at the ways blacks have been disempowered by the government and by themselves.

    I agree that this is a correct statement of what should happen. Sadly an Amazon recommendation popped up on my email this morning touting The Radical King, edited by Cornell West. The thrust of this compilation by West is to give comfort to the racial identity crowd and the need for big government to ensure social justice.

    It reminds us that all public figures are complex people and often our views of them are projections of what we want them to be, good or bad (from our own perspective). So like Evangelicals are wont to do selecting Biblical verses in series or combination to justify a particular belief or recommended action, we often focus on particular statements or events (like the address at the Lincoln Memorial) to claim “our King” as opposed to whoever he really was. Cornell West has claimed “his King” in his compilation. 

    We have to be realistic that appeal to authority only works when the person to whom we appeal also sees that authority in the same light and representing the same thing.

    • #9
    • January 19, 2020, at 1:08 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    As always, you are correct, @rodin. I bring many of my own biases to this discussion. But knowing what I do about Cornell West, his position on King is, at the very least, questionable. His comment that the FBI called King the “most dangerous man in America with J. Edgar at its helm doesn’t help his cause. Thanks for the reference!

    • #10
    • January 19, 2020, at 1:28 PM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Henry Castaigne Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Those poor black people, having to live in a village named after such a notorious racist president.

    Leftists completely ignore the fact that the blacks in Lincoln’s time greatly honored him. I think they had a better sense than others at the time that Lincoln had to free them strategically and carefully. Whenever he appeared, blacks wildly cheered him; that’s hard to believe with the propaganda we hear today.

    I believe that Black-Americans were completely right to cheer Lincoln. But I also agree with Frederick Douglas’s criticisms of Lincoln. Definitely an interesting time. 

    • #11
    • January 19, 2020, at 2:13 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Henry Castaigne Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    But to demand colleges build separate dorms, and to have separate graduation ceremonies, that is something totally different. It’s demanding officially sanctioned segregation, which isn’t any different from the officially sanctioned segregation by those who wanted blacks to sit in the back of the bus . . .

    I wrote a post awhile back about Hidden Figures. A good movie. In a weird way, many Black-Americans were more patriotic during segregation. Here is the relevant passage.

    The black women of Hidden Figures aren’t woke Ta-Nehisi Coates types who want to separate themselves from the American mainstream. They want to be included so they can help Mr. Kennedy outdo the Russians and they have a crush on John Glenn. Though descendants of slaves, they are similar to legal patriotic immigrants who actively want to enter the mainstream of America as equal citizens. The goal is to not be a victim and become a successful American who can get promoted after working very hard…

    I am noticing a theme. Concerns about bigotry and mistreatment are always there but underneath there is a strong attachment to America and a desire to be more American. I know that social media and the MSM promote a kind of identity politics that is disturbingly similar to the old segregation but the American ideal and the American dream is still appealing to very large percentage of black-Americans.We shall overcome because Carlisle is right. “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right. “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right. “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.” Yet that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the Bible is right. “You shall reap what you sow.” With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

    Ultimately, I’m hopeful that Leftist identity politics will eventually be viewed with the ill favor that Jim Crow is now viewed today. To quote from Martin Luther King’s speech at Grosse Pointe Highschool.

    We shall overcome because Carlisle is right. “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right. “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right. “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.” Yet that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the Bible is right. “You shall reap what you sow.” With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

    Human nature drives people towards bigotry and segregation. But human decency and reason leads us classical liberalism. Lies take forever to kill and the pernicious lie of that your race is an all important part of you, whether it be left-wing or right-wing is rather like antibiotic resistant bacteria. But the Truth cannot be killed.

    • #12
    • January 19, 2020, at 2:50 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  13. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    I wrote a post awhile back about Hidden Figures. A good movie. In a weird way, many Black-Americans were more patriotic during segregation. Here is the relevant passage.

    The black women of Hidden Figures aren’t woke Ta-Nehisi Coates types who want to separate themselves from the American mainstream. They want to be included so they can help Mr. Kennedy outdo the Russians and they have a crush on John Glenn. Though descendants of slaves, they are similar to legal patriotic immigrants who actively want to enter the mainstream of America as equal citizens. The goal is to not be a victim and become a successful American who can get promoted after working very hard…

    I am noticing a theme. Concerns about bigotry and mistreatment are always there but underneath there is a strong attachment to America and a desire to be more American. I know that social media and the MSM promote a kind of identity politics that is disturbingly similar to the old segregation but the American ideal and the American dream is still appealing to very large percentage of black-Americans.We shall overcome because Carlisle is right. “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right. “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right. “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.” Yet that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the Bible is right. “You shall reap what you sow.” With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

    Human nature drives people towards bigotry and segregation. But human decency and reason leads us classical liberalism. Lies take forever to kill and the pernicious lie of that your race is an all important part of you, whether it be left-wing or right-wing is rather like antibiotic resistant bacteria. But the Truth cannot be killed.

    Since we’ve had a volunteer army black Americans have consistently constituted a higher percentage of our armed services than their share of the population.

    I agree with your observation about the women in Hidden Figures wanting to be seen as Americans. The great lost opportunity for nearly a century after the Civil War was that a black community wanting to be assimilated as Americans was largely rejected by white Americans, north and south.

    • #13
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:22 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  14. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Those poor black people, having to live in a village named after such a notorious racist president.

    Leftists completely ignore the fact that the blacks in Lincoln’s time greatly honored him. I think they had a better sense than others at the time that Lincoln had to free them strategically and carefully. Whenever he appeared, blacks wildly cheered him; that’s hard to believe with the propaganda we hear today.

    I believe that Black-Americans were completely right to cheer Lincoln. But I also agree with Frederick Douglas’s criticisms of Lincoln. Definitely an interesting time.

    From Douglass’ 1876 Freedmen Monument Speech (attended by President Grant):

    I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. . . His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible

    Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery. 

    Few great public men have ever been the victims of fiercer denunciation than Abraham Lincoln was during his administration. He was often wounded in the house of his friends. Reproaches came thick and fast upon him from within and from without, and from opposite quarters. He was assailed by Abolitionists; he was assailed by slave-holders; he was assailed by the men who were for peace at any price; he was assailed by those who were for a more vigorous prosecution of the war; he was assailed for not making the war an abolition war; and he was bitterly assailed for making the war an abolition war.

    The trust that Abraham Lincoln had in himself and in the people was surprising and grand, but it was also enlightened and well founded. He knew the American people better than they knew themselves, and his truth was based upon this knowledge.

    • #14
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:28 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Though descendants of slaves, they are similar to legal patriotic immigrants who actively want to enter the mainstream of America as equal citizens. The goal is to not be a victim and become a successful American who can get promoted after working very hard…

    Excellent comment, @henrycastaigne. I especially liked the line I brought down. This is true for all of us, and I’m so glad that there were/are blacks who don’t get whatever bigotry still exists to get in their way! Thanks.

    • #15
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:39 PM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):
    From Douglass’ 1876 Freedmen Monument Speech (attended by President Grant):

    Douglass had criticisms, but Lincoln trusted in his counsel, too. Two great men with great instincts and dedication to the country. Thanks, Mark.

    • #16
    • January 19, 2020, at 3:42 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Overnight I was thinking about MLK and the facts that have come to light about the more radical ideas he was apparently exploring, such as socialism. In his time, however, he never pursued that kind of work. And I don’t believe it’s fair to hold him “guilty” of ideas that he didn’t live to pursue. Would he have gone in that direction? Perhaps. But we’ll never know.

    • #17
    • January 20, 2020, at 5:39 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Stad Thatcher

    Rodin (View Comment):
    So like Evangelicals are wont to do selecting Biblical verses in series or combination to justify a particular belief or recommended action, we often focus on particular statements or events (like the address at the Lincoln Memorial) to claim “our King” as opposed to whoever he really was. Cornell West has claimed “his King” in his compilation. 

    I’ve seen liberals do this too in order to justify their actions or positions.

    • #18
    • January 20, 2020, at 5:52 AM PST
    • 1 like
  19. Stad Thatcher

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Human nature drives people towards bigotry and segregation. But human decency and reason leads us classical liberalism. Lies take forever to kill and the pernicious lie of that your race is an all important part of you, whether it be left-wing or right-wing is rather like antibiotic resistant bacteria. But the Truth cannot be killed.

    My being white means about as much to me as my car being dark brown. It’s an innate characteristic I can’t do anything about.

    Well, I suppose I could get a tan or paint my car . . .

    • #19
    • January 20, 2020, at 5:54 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  20. Rodin Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):
    So like Evangelicals are wont to do selecting Biblical verses in series or combination to justify a particular belief or recommended action, we often focus on particular statements or events (like the address at the Lincoln Memorial) to claim “our King” as opposed to whoever he really was. Cornell West has claimed “his King” in his compilation.

    I’ve seen liberals do this too in order to justify their actions or positions.

    Exactly. My reference was intended to be illustrative, not exclusive.

    • #20
    • January 20, 2020, at 9:30 AM PST
    • 1 like