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Dateline Saint Augustine, 1964. Little Known Events in the Civil Rights Movement

January 14, 2023 2:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Locally-Made Documentary Connects Pivotal Moment In Civil Rights Movement To Today | WBUR News

In the Spring of 1964, the Ancient City would witness a final scene of what would be called “The Great Moral Drama,” which led to the landmark passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While St. Augustine was gearing up for its 400th anniversary, tensions rose as racial segregation came to the forefront and began to make headlines.

National media covered stories of the Ku Klux Klan attacking non-violent activists who were not only beaten but also subsequently arrested by local law enforcement. Terror reigned. Black homes were shot up and firebombed. At the request of local activists, members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) - headed up by Dr. King - arrived on May 18, 1964, and began working with locals to organize sit-ins and peaceful protests and lead the charge to end segregation. On June 12, 1964, Dr. King was arrested on the steps of the Monson Motor Lodge when he asked to be served at the whites-only hotel restaurant. He was taken to the Old St. Johns County Jail where he wrote to Rabbi Israel Dresner of New Jersey, encouraging rabbis to assist in the St. Augustine movement. On June 18th, two crucial moments in Civil Rights history would unfold at the hotel. After the refusal of service in the Monson Motor Lodge restaurant, sixteen rabbis prayed at the hotel's entrance. Manager James Brock reportedly pushed the kneeling rabbis toward police to be arrested for trespassing, breach of peace, and conspiracy. This resulted in the largest mass arrest of rabbis in US history to this day.

Several minutes later, Brock pouring two gallons of muriatic acid into the pool. The image of horrified swimmers would make global headlines, influencing lawmakers to vote in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On June 17, “wade-ins” began on local beaches. While beaches were legally desegregated, St. Augustine’s public beaches were still mostly off-limits to Blacks. One of the largest and most violent demonstrations took place on June 25, 1964 at St. Augustine Beach. The Miami News reported hundreds of white segregationists “screaming and flailing” at African Americans in the “city’s worst outbreak of racial violence.” White residents forced many of the demonstrators into the water. Police officers stormed the water: some with dogs, others wielding batons. At least 45 injuries and 15 hospitalizations were reported with some nearly drowned. Wade-in protests continued until July 1, 1964, the day before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. Martin Luther King taught us that compassion is a tool that can influence and inspire us to grow a culture of Peace.

Monday, January 16 is Martin Luther King Day, a National Day of Service. I would like to learn what other US Servas members are doing to celebrate his legacy. Submit your story.

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