Thursday, July 02, 2015

July 2, 1964: President Johnson Signs 1964 Civil Rights Act, Thanks to Courage of Our Neighbors and Friends in St. Augustine

Future UN Ambassador Andrew Young, future Nobel Prize winner Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Robert S. Hayling, D.D.S., who started the St. Augustine movement and won national support, leading to enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Upon learning of passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hugged by Lennette Pemberton in the Iceberg Restaurant, owned by she and her husband on Bridge Street in St. Augustine

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrested by Police Chief Virgil Stuart in St. Augustine for seeking service in segregated restaurant at Monson Motel (Stuart, a KKK member/sympathizer, blamed "outside agitators" for unrest -- our City government has named police headquarters against the racist police chief)

Rev. Ralph David Abernathy & Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Augustine Jail
(Dr. King said it was the nicest jail he'd ever been in and wrote rabbis from his jail cell about how St. Augustine is the "most lawless" city in America.

African-Americans denied service and arrested at Woolworth's, St. Augustine, 1964
(This holy place in our Nation's civil rights and African-American history, owned by an Episcopal Church, is currently a bank and gallery. It could become part of a national civil rights museum under proposed St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Parkway Act of 2009)

Civil rights protesters in Slave Market Square, June 1964

Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



Healing the scars of racism in St. Augustine brought two Civil Rights monuments in our Slave Market Square – one to Rev. Andrew Young and the other to the civil rights footsoldiers who made possible the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Dr. King was here in St. Augustine during 1964, where he and local residents helped change world history. The 1964 Civil Rights Act enacted as a result of what happened right here, in our Nation's Oldest European-founded City.
Dr. King called St. Augustine "the most lawless city in America" in his June 11, 1964 letter to reform rabbis. One week later, St. Augustine saw the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history.

Here's more courtesy of the ACCORD website:

Local and National Background

Through most of the southern United States, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century and becoming the entrenched law of the land by the early years of the 20th century, segregation by race was the legal system. That is, by law, blacks and whites were separated in all public facilities. Blacks could not eat in restaurants, stay in hotels or motels, swim in public beaches or pools, or attend the same schools or churches if any of these facilities or institutions were used by white people. In St. Augustine, a black person could not get a drink of water from a public fountain or use the restrooms in public facilities. Although they could purchase goods from the local stores, they could not sit at the lunch counter and order food in the same store. State and local police forces as well as the courts of the state were all required to uphold and enforce these laws. Educational and job opportunities- although the law did not require it-were restricted on the basis of race.

In 1954, The Supreme Court of the United States declared that the "separate but equal" legal status of public schools made those schools inherently unequal and ordered the desegregation of all public schools in the United States. In St. Augustine, by 1964 — ten years later — only 6 black children had been admitted to white schools, and the homes of two of the families of these children had been burned by local segregationists and other families had been forced to move out of the county because the parents had been fired from their jobs and could find no work.

In the spring of 1964, a major Civil Rights Bill was pending in the United States Senate. This bill — if made into law — would outlaw all segregation on the basis of race in all public facilities. That is, if the facility, such as restaurants, hotels, beaches, buses, trains, restrooms, etc, were open to public use, no one could be denied the right to use it on the basis of race. Major civil rights demonstrations in many southern cities had convinced most Americans that the laws of segregation violated the constitution of the United States and were morally wrong. The house of Representatives had passed the Civil Rights Bill on February 10, 1964, and a majority of senators had declared they would vote in favor. A group of senators from southern states began a filibuster — a non-stop speech preventing any action on any bill from taking place. Senate rules require a 2/3rds vote to halt a filibuster. There were not enough Senators willing to do so. Teams of Senators had kept the speech going for months. The Civil Rights movement seemed stalled, hopes for the passage of this bill began to dim. It was in that atmosphere that demonstrations in St. Augustine played a major role in securing the needed votes to stop the filibuster and pass the Civil Rights Bill.

Origins of the St. Augustine Movement

JUNE 1963. Dr. Robert Hayling, a black dentist in St. Augustine, organized the Youth Council of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They began street protests in front of Woolworths on King Street, in front of the Plaza. They carried signs that asked "If We Spend Money Here Why Can't we Eat Here?"

JULY 1963. A "sit-in" at a local pharmacy (young people sat down on the stools of the lunch counter and asked for service, refusing to leave when told to do so) led to the arrest of 16 young blacks, including 7 juveniles. The county judge, Charles Mathis, told the parents of the juveniles he would release the children into their custody only if they pledged to keep them away from further demonstrations. The parents of three of the children agreed; the others said "no." Mathis then sent the four young people to state reform school where they remained for six months.

SEPTEMBER 1963. Anger at such treatment of their children brought on the first mass demonstration which protested the city commission's refusal to appoint a biracial commission to discuss the problems of race relations in the city.

In that same month, the Ku Klux Klan, an organization of white segregationists, held a rally outside of town. Dr. Hayling and three others tried to observe the rally, were seen, seized, beaten, and saved from being burned to death only at the last minute. Dr. Hayling and others continued their efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution, with no success.

FEBRUARY 1964. Local segregationists fired a shotgun into Dr. Hayling's home, narrowly missing his wife and children, killing his dog.

MARCH 1964. Dr. Hayling, Henry and Katherine Twine, and other local civil rights leaders, asked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his organization — the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) — to come to St. Augustine to help.

St. Augustine, SCLC, and Dr. King

APRIL 1964. Dr. King and SCLC, fearing the proposed Civil Rights Bill being filibustered in the U.S. Senate would be defeated, decided to come to St. Augustine and make a stand here. He rallied northen supporters to come and help

Two of these supporters who came were Mrs. Malcolm Peabody, the mother of the governor of Massachusetts and Mrs. John Burgess, wife of the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts. The two women joined a sit-in at the Ponce de Leon Restaurant, led by Dr. Hayling along with other blacks, requesting service, and refusing to leave. Their arrest and jailing brought national attention to St. Augustine. All of the major newspapers of the nation as well as television and radio stations began to cover events here and broadcast them to the nation and the world.

MAY-JUNE 1964. Among the activities told to the world: Dr. King spoke in local churches, rallying supporters and teaching his methods of non-violent resistance. No matter how demonstrators were abused, beaten, or verbally assaulted, they were not to fight back nor resist arrest in any way.

Nightly marches down King Street, around the Plaza and the "Slave Market" and back up King street were met by white segregationist and verbal and physical assault on the marchers and resulted in hundreds of arrests and jail sentences (of marchers only). The City banned the night marches and ordered large bonds of $1500 to $3000 be paid to be released from jail. There were so many demonstrators in the jail — both local people and others who had come to help, both black and white, — that there was no room in the jail, and people were kept in a stockade during the day, in the hot sun with no shade.

Mrs. Katherine Twine, who came to be known as the "Rosa Parks of St. Augustine " for her leadership in the movement, was arrested so many times that she began to carry a large-brimmed hat which she called her "Freedom Hat" with her whenever she thought she would be arrested in order to have some shade from the sun in that stockade. The hat had "Freedom Now" printed on it and a button from the 1963 March on Washington, and has been preserved as a precious artifact of those times. Young and old, black and white shared the dangers of the marches, the assaults and the jails.

Attempts were made to integrate the beaches of Anastasia Island — demonstrators were driven into the water by police and segregationists, some could not swim and had to be saved from drowning by other demonstrators.

A small group of women attempted to enter a white church on King Street on a Sunday morning, wishing to take part in the service. They were met by a group of whites, arms linked together to prevent them from worshiping with them.

St. Augustine & Passage of the Civil Rights Bill

JUNE 9, 1964. Federal Court Judge Simpson signed orders reducing the amount of bonds that could be imposed on arrested demonstrators to $100, limited the length of jail terms, and declared night marches to be legal. Local officials were ordered to allow the marches and keep order.

JUNE 10, 1964. The constant coverage of the nightly marches and assaults in the nation's news media brought on a vote in the United States Senate to invoke "cloture" — the vote to end the filibuster. The way was now clear to pass the Civil Rights Bill, after each senator had been given a chance to speak to it. It was the courage and determination of the demonstrators in St. Augustine that had finally convinced the people of the United States that segregation must end.

But on that night, despite Judge Simpson's orders, the nightly march was met by an angry crowd of more than 100 white men who broke through police lines and attacked the marchers.

JUNE 11, 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other members of the SCLC were arrested and jailed for trying to eat lunch at the Monson Motel Restaurant on the bay-front in town.

JUNE 18, 1964. A group of black and white protesters jumped into the swimming pool at the Monson Motel — the resultant photographs of the owner pouring muriatic acid into the pool and a policeman jumping into the pool to arrest them were broadcast around the world — and became some of the most famous images of the entire Civil Rights Movement.

JUNE 19, 1964. The United States Senate passed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing segregation in all public places and facilities. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964.

Aftermath of the St. Augustine Movement

SUMMER OF 1964 IN ST. AUGUSTINE. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there was still strong resistance in St. Augustine to implementing its provisions and further demonstrations and violence continued. But such resistance was doomed. The law of the land would prevail in time.

Many of the demonstrators lost their jobs because they asked for their basic human rights, many were physically assaulted, some lost their homes. Each night they had to face their fears and agree to once again march down King Street.

But they prevailed. Not only the city of St. Augustine and all of its residents, no matter their color, are the better for it, but the entire nation is indebted to them. Their courageous actions had a direct impact on the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These brave people deserve our respect, and our thanks.

Saint Augustine Florida — population 15,000 (roughly 75% white, 25% Black) — is still thoroughly segregated in 1963. Founded in 1565 by Spanish colonizers, it claims to be "the oldest city in America" — meaning, of course, the oldest city settled by Europeans because some of the pueblo towns of the Southwest date back to the 11th Century or earlier. Until the Civil War, St. Augustine was a slave trade center, and when the town became a vacation destination in the 1890s the old slave market was turned into a tourist attraction.

Lincolnville is St. Augustine's Black neighborhood and Mrs. Fannie Fullerwood — who works as a maid for a white family — is president of the local NAACP. In March of 1963, she sends a letter to President Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson asking that they reject a $350,000 grant to the city for a segregated celebration of its 400th anniversary. With Greenwood and Birmingham on front pages around the world, LBJ replies that: "No event in which I will participate in St. Augustine will be segregated." But what does that mean? Does it mean that places and events will be temporarily desegregated while he is present, or does it mean he will only participate in locations that have been permanently integrated?

Intense negotiations between the local NAACP, St. Augustine's white power structure, and LBJ's representatives ensue. LBJ comes to town for a banquet, and for the first time in history, Blacks enter the lavish Ponce de Leon Hotel ballroom as guests rather than maids or bus boys (they are seated by themselves at two "Negro" tables). But St Augustine's lunch counters, rest rooms, and other facilities remain segregated, as does the Ponce de Leon after the Vice President leaves. And the next day when NAACP leaders show up for a promised meeting with the City Commision, they are shown to an empty room with a tape recorder. They are told to record their complaints because no white official will meet with them in person.

By early June, the hope that had soared at the time of LBJ's visit is dying. Nothing has come from the tape-recorded grievances, and so far as the city is concerned, the 400th anniversary celebations are going to be on a segregated basis. Dr. Robert Hayling, a young Black dentist recently arrived in the city, becomes head of the St. Augustine NAACP Youth Council (SAYC). He announces that unless there is some tangible progress, the young people of St. Augustine are ready to begin nonviolent direct-action like the children of Birmingham. A few days later he leads small groups of pickets at the local Woolworths to protest segregation. They carry signs reading: "If We Spend Money Here Why Can't We Eat Here?"

The Klan threatens to kill Hayling. Hayling tells a reporter: "I and others have armed. We will shoot first and ask questions later. We are not going to die like Medgar Evers." The press, which has ignored the Black community and issues of segregation, seize on his remark, sensationalizing it to mean that Blacks are arming to attack innocent whites. National leaders of the NAACP repudiate Hayling's statement as a provocation. They assure the FBI that they are working to silence Hayling.

In July, sixteen SAYC members sit-in at the segregated counter and are arrested. Seven of them are younger than 17 and thus legally classified as juveniles. Charles Mathis, the local judge, denies them bail. He refuses to release them unless their parents sign a promise that they won't demonstrate until they reach age 21. Four of the families refuse to agree, and the "St. Augustine Four" — JoAnn Anderson Ulmer, Audrey Nell Edwards, Willie Carl Singleton, and Samuel White — are sent to state reform schools. When an NAACP attorney tries to free them, Judge Mathis claims that they are beyond the jurisdiction of the legal system. The young teenagers remain locked up, away from their parents and out of school, until January when pressure on the Florida governor finally wins their release.

Outraged at the indefinite incarceration of the St. Augustine Four and the continued refusal of the city to appoint a bi-racial commission or meet with Black leaders, Dr. Hayling leads a mass march of more than 100 adults towards the Old Slave Market on Labor Day. The police attack, arresting Hayling and 26 others.

Two weeks later, shortly after the Birmingham church bombing, the Ku Klux Klan holds a rally and cross-burning in a nearby field. Rev. Lynch, head of the National States Rights Party, addresses 300 racists, telling them that the four young girls slain in Birmingham were: ".. old enough to have venereal diseases," and were no more human or innocent than rattlesnakes. "So kill 'em all, and if it's four less niggers tonight, then good for whoever planted the bomb. We're all better off!"

Suddenly the cry "Niggers! Niggers!" goes up from the crowd who push forward Dr. Hayling and SAYC activists Clyde Jenkins, James Hauser, and James Jackson who have been caught observing the rally. They are brutally beaten unconscious with fists, chains, and clubs. Only the arrival of Highway Patrol officers prevent them from being burned alive. St. Johns County Sheriff L.O. Davis — a Klan sympathizer — arrests four whites for the beating and also arrests the four unarmed Blacks for "assaulting" the 300 armed Klansmen. Charges against the Klansmen are dismissed, Hayling is convicted of "criminal assault."

Over the following weeks, tension escalates. The home of a Black family whose child has integrated a white school is burned. A carload of KKK night riders races through Lincolnville shooting into Black homes. Blacks return fire, killing one Klansman. NAACP activist Rev. Goldie Eubanks and three others are indicted for murder. Meanwhile, disturbed by Hayling's militancy, the national NAACP removes him as head of the Youth Council. Hayling, Eubanks, Henry & Kathrine Twine, and other freedom fighters leave the NAACP and contact SCLC for assistance.

Dr. Robert S. Hayling, D.D.S.
The young veteran and dentist who started the St. Augustine movement

No comments: