Friday, May 13, 2011
Dedication of Footsoldiers Monument Tomorrow at 4:30 in the Slave Market Square in St. Augustine, Florida
Slavery came to what is now the United States of America on September 8, 1565, when St. Augustine, Florida was founded as a Spanish colony.
As Lincolnville Neighborhood Association President Judith Seraphin wrote in the New York Times Magazine on April 17, 2011:
The first slaves in the territory that we now regard as the United States were not brought to Virginia in 1619. That happened 54 years earlier, when our nation’s oldest European-founded City, St. Augustine, Fla., was founded by Spain’s Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on September 8, 1565. Menéndez’s contract with King Phillip afforded him three years to import 500 African slaves.
Slavery ended some 300 years later with the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and Thirteenth Amendment (1865), but exploitation of African-American persisted for another one hundred years as Jim Crow segregation.
Jim Crow segregation (de jure segregation) was ended by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was made possible by Civil Rights activists here, whose actions (and bigots’ responses) helped empower President Lyndon Johnson to break the Senate filibuster and win enactment of the 1954 Civil Rights Act.
De facto segregation actually persisted here in St. Augustine for a number years, with local businesses holding themselves out as all-white, including the former Doctors’ Building.
Now, tomorrow, there will finally be a monument to the Civil Rights Footsoldiers here – the working people, high school and college students, rabbis, ministers, priests and nuns whose peaceful protests helped change our world. We salute them.
The memorial is located on the precise spot where my friend Peg McIntire’s Grandmothers for Peace group held its May 26, 2008 peaceful protest against the Iraq war, complete with flag-draped coffin. I was proud to be there that day, and proud to meet old and new friends there. Peg McIntire died only three days later, on May 29, 2008. See below. A year later, our environmental, civil rights and peace activist friend David Thundershield Queen, died on June 13, 2009.
Tomorrow, the Civil Rights Footsoldiers Memorial will be in the right place, at the right time.
Soon we will have a National Civil Rights Museum here in St. Augustine, Florida – again, the right place at the right time – commemorating the history of slavery, the ending of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the end of Jim Crow segregation, and our wonderful Nation, one where the rights of women, other minorities, Gays and Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered (GLBT) people are now respected and not neglected.
What do you reckon?