Gary Clair


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St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest European city that was continually occupied in the United States. It was founded 42 years before the settlement in Plymouth Rock in present-day Massachusetts.

King Philip II of Spain had ordered his best admiral, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to become the governor of Florida while colonizing and exploring the state. He finally did so on August 28, 1565, during St. Augustine’s Feast Day. On September 8, he had decided to bring his troops and the settlers along after he did his share of discovering. Although it took having to fight off the French using the admiral’s skills as well as a hurricane, the Spanish could easily secure the city and make it as their own.

However, Menendez was the first to successfully create a steady colony within Florida. Juan Ponce de Leon would’ve been one of the first successful people to colonize in Florida, but it changed when he was killed by a Native American tribe. Hernando de Soto, another explorer, died from a disease at least three years after his colonization. Although, one of the main purposes of even attempting to colonize in Florida was to get rid of the French, as Menendez had already done on the St. Johns River.

By 1764, the British had a time where they controlled Florida. In fact, they controlled a large amount of the United States. Although the British believed that there wasn’t much potential in St. Augustine, due to its lack of crops, it was known for being an area of cosmopolitan style, thus making it a point of interest. It also became a recommended refuge for slaves. According to Jesse Greenspan, he states that “King Charles II of Spain proclaimed in 1693 that runaway slaves from British lands would be given their freedom in Florida provided they converted to Catholicism.”

While there were many other historical events that occurred in St. Augustine, a key event included being an integral part of the Civil Rights movement. In 1964, since it was the city’s 400th birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as many activists, had planned to go to the city to support the end of racial segregation. One day before Lyndon B. Johnson signed off on the Civil Rights Act, King had left the city. Due to the attention that St. Augustine brought regarding the segregation protests, it caused the 83-day filibuster to end.

About the Author: Kyra is a guest contributor from Agustin Inn, a St. Augustine bed and breakfast.

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