Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Lynching victim marker to be placed on St. Augustine visitor center grounds. (SAR)

Another civil rights victory in St. Augustine, Florida.

As Florida Governor Reuben Askew told a young lawyer on his staff, I. Henry Dean, "If you've got the votes, sit down and shut up."  Mr. Dean is now our County Commission Chair.

Like many others, I strongly supported the marker being placed in the Plaza, with monuments to Andrew Young and the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers.

Isaac Barrett was murdered in 1897.

The dateline in The New York Times was "St. Augustine, Florida."

First Isaac Barrett's historic marker was stolen in Orangedale. 

Inept, corrupt Sheriff DAVID SHOAR did nothing to investigate. 

Then KKK sympathizers inveighed against his historic marker for years, some stating as facts their own family folklore that was not evidence. 2022 School Board candidate Doug Russo led a chorus of rude heckling jackles.

Our City Commissioners needed a spinal implant. But for 2.5 years they succumbed like Dull Republicans to KKK-style threats, tensions and pressures -- not publicly discussed -- and possible Sunshine violations.

The result was the City Commission's unanimous 2019 vote on the Plaza location being overturned unanimously April 25, 2022. 

Shall we blame louche legislative legerdemain by  St. Augustine City Mayor TRACY WILSON UPCHURCH,  a third generation state legislator, and by City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E.? 

You tell me. 

Did these two willful men showed a negative Profile in Courage?

You tell me. 

As my mother taught me, "Justice delayed is justice denied."

Isaac Barrett's lynching marker will finally have a place in St. Augustine 

Too long delayed. 

Too much secrecy. 

Not-so-good-ole boy burghers still govern here, oblivious to the stench of the appearance of Sunshine violations in overturning a unanimous Commission vote.

Looking forward to placement of the Isaac Barrett lynching marker by the Juneteenth holiday, with suitable plantings and contextualization.

It takes a village.

Keep your eyes on the prize. 

Elect honest reformers -- moral. people who keep their promises. 

We should not be governed by fear or ignorance, or fear of ignorance. 

From St. Augustine Record: 

Lynching victim marker to be placed on St. Augustine visitor center grounds

Barrett was killed in 1897

Sheldon Gardner
St. Augustine Record
Supporters of the Isaac Barrett memorial and people who helped with the project stand Monday at St. Augustine City Hall. The City Commission on Monday voted to accept a proposal to place the marker at the city's visitor center. From left: Floyd Phillips, Michael Konopacki, Lisa Lloyd, Trish Becker, Andrea Clark, Mary Cobb and Gayle Phillips.

St. Augustine's visitor center will be used to educate people about a lynching victimin St. Johns County.

The St. Augustine City Commission unanimously approved on Monday placing the Isaac Barrett marker at the grounds of the Visitor Information Center, located at 10 S. Castillo Drive. It's the culmination of an effort that started years ago.

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"It's like having a weight lifted, to be honest with you," Gayle Phillips, a leader of the marker effort, said after the vote as she gathered with others outside of City Hall.

"We're going to give him the burial he deserved," said Trish Becker, who is involved in the project

Barrett was accused of beating his employer and the employer's family, and two people died. He was captured and killed by a mob in 1897 in what is now Orangedale in St. Johns County before he could get a hearing before a judge. He was a Black man, and a white mob lynched him. 

Barrett signed a confession after he was captured by the mob. But, as was the case with other Black men in that era, whether he was truly guilty will never be known because he never made it to court, Phillips said in 2019. 

Phillips said the group wants the marker placed on the visitor center grounds by June, the month that Barrett was killed and the month of Juneteenth emancipation celebrations. But a date hasn't been set. 

The St. Johns Community Remembrance Board, representing the Equal Justice Initiative, worked with city officials over a couple of years to complete the project. 

A rendering of what the marker will look like at St. Augustine's visitor center grounds.

Several years ago, St. Johns County residents worked with the Equal Justice Initiative to have a marker placed off State Road 13 in 2018 in the area where the lynching happened. One effort of the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that fights injustice and mass incarceration, is placing markers at lynching sites around the country. 

That marker went missing shortly after it was placed and before a planned dedication ceremony, which officials still held despite the theft.

In 2019, the commission approved placing a new Barrett memorial in the Plaza de la Constitucion, the place where city officials removed a memorial to Confederate soldiers in 2020. But plans to place the memorial in the Plaza did not come to fruition.

Mayor Tracy Upchurch said Monday that the visitor center is the appropriate place in part because the marker will be protected and it will be seen by more visitors.

Also, according to a city document, criteria for memorials in the Plaza include commemorating a "significant activity or event which occurred prior to Feb. 22, 1821," or "the service to the city of citizens leading and participating in the civil rights movement in St. Augustine."

Also, the removal of the Confederate memorial from the Plaza "set a chain of events, including each of the commissioner's position on the appropriateness and timing of the final decision regarding the Barrett lynching marker," according to City Manager John Regan. 

Language for a marker that will be placed on the St. Augustine visitor center grounds.

The marker details the history of what happened to Barrett and discusses the history of racial terrorism in the United States. 

"The press reported statements by Mr. Barrett as a 'confession,' and as evidence that he deserved his fate," according to the marker. "During this era of racial terror, Black people who questioned or challenged their employers about unfair treatment were often subject to violent responses. Moreover, accusations against Black people were rarely subject to scrutiny; therefore, in many cases the mere suggestion of Black-on-white misconduct provoked mob violence and lynchings before the judicial system could or would act.

"Police officers, who were charged with protecting those in their custody, rarely used force to resist white lynch mobs intent on killing Black people," the marker reads. "Like nearly all documented lynching victims, Isaac Barrett never had the chance to defend himself in a court of law, and was killed without a trial."

Thousands of Black people were killed by lynchings in the U.S. between 1877-1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. Barrett's killing is the only known lynching in St. Johns County.

The marker will be accompanied by contextualization statement. Upchurch provided that language on Monday, which other commissioners supported:

"The lynching of Isaac Barrett did not occur in the city of St. Augustine. He was murdered in Orangedale over 20 miles to the west of this location. Regardless, both communities are in St. Johns County, and as such this event is a part of our history," Upchurch said. "In order to educate our residents and visitors, the City Commission of the city of St. Augustine approved the placement of this marker in this prominent public space on April 25, 2022. It is meant to generate conversations that will help to open new avenues of understanding that will strengthen community bonds and increase inclusiveness among all people."

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