To the casual observer-the tourist-St. Augustine of the 1960s seemed more like a tropical paradise than a racial battleground. This unique city of 15,000, the first permanent settlement in the United States, prided itself on its quaint streets, historic buildings, and pristine Atlantic Ocean beaches. Not surprisingly, it depended on tourists for much of its economy. Black buggy drivers chauffeured tourists through the downtown, past the Old Slave Market where blacks and whites congregated on benches to chat. Although most outsiders would not have considered Florida part of the Deep South, paradoxically, beneath St. Augustine's facade hid "the vilest kind of racism."l Because of this contrast, one journalist described the town as "schizophrenia by the sea."2 Whites, conditioned to view blacks as inferior, paternalistically kept them in their place economically and socially. Historian David Colburn noted that Jim Crow segregation denied the city's black residents (approximately 23 percent of the city's population) "full and equal access to the railroad station, bus depot, restrooms, drinking fountains, public schools, city hospital, and library." Segregation resulted in a complete shutout of blacks from "any role in local political and economic affairs,"3 but race relations were characterized by civility as long as blacks deferred to whites. Content with their situation, whites remained unaware of emerging racial discontent.
Slate, Claudia S.
"Florida Room: Battle for St. Augustine 1964: Public Record and Personal Recollection,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 84:
4, Article 5.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol84/iss4/5