Plans for St Augustine Civil Rights Museum

A group of community leaders and volunteer members of a citizen advisory board promoting the Civil Rights Museum of St Augustine, met with Historic City News editor Michael Gold and other media representatives who were invited to participate in a press conference today at the Casa Monica.

In May 2010, a committee was formed to plan, implement and construct a civil rights museum and resource center in St Augustine. From this committee, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Civil Rights Museum of St Augustine, Inc., was created.

Dr. Priscilla Duncan, Director of Fundraising, introduced members of the audience to Chairman, Richard Burton, Sr., museum committee members and supporters.

Civil Rights historian, David Nolan, spoke to the audience about some of the common errors that have been peddled as truth in the history books of our public schools — at one point calling for them to be “thrown out” until they can be accurately rewritten.

Nolan believes the city has been missing a significant opportunity to promote our role in the history of black Americans, dating back to the 16th century. He characterizes events leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act that occurred in St Augustine as some of the most significant historical events in modern times.

Civil rights demonstrators involved in the local 1963-64 Civil Rights Movement that were featured in the autobiographical documentary, Andrew Young Presents “Crossing in St Augustine”, attended to discuss their experiences.

Speakers included Barbara B. Allen, Maude B. Jackson, and Purcell Conway, Sr.

Historical photographs and artifacts were on display; including Kat Twine’s “Freedom Hat” and the first pen used to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson; donated to the 40th ACCORD, Inc. by Del Berg of Palm Coast and put on display for the Civil Rights Museum of St. Augustine Press Conference.

Officers and Members of Civil Rights Museum of St Augustine, Inc.:

Richard P. Burton, Sr. Chairman
Elizabeth Duncan Secretary
Dr. Robert B. Hayling Civil Rights Activist
Vivian Sanks King, Esq. Legal Advisor
Beverly A. Sanks Guidry Educational Advisor
Gwendolyn Duncan Historical Events and Artifacts
Dr. Priscilla Duncan Director of Fundraising

An important keynote for the meeting was the announcement that the Rudcarlie Building, located at 79 Bridge Street, will be the “transitional museum site”. Through an agreement with The Gordon-Mills-Miles Limited Partnership, the former medical-dental office, built in the 1950’s, will be completely renovated for the Civil Rights Museum.

The office was built by Dr. Rudolph N. Gordon (1901-1959). It became a historically significant landmark in the Civil Rights drama; many of the planning sessions for local demonstrations and “sit-ins” were held at that location and attended by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

The proposed museum building was the first medical-dental office constructed in St Augustine without racially segregated waiting rooms. After Dr. Gordon’s death, the office was rented to Dr. Robert B. Hayling; a dentist who became a prominent leader of the civil rights demonstrations in St Augustine.

Volusia County Court Judge Stasia Warren spoke about her late husband, Attorney Dan R. Warren, and his commitment to the Civil Rights Museum Project. State Representative Dwayne L. Taylor, District 27, introduced a resolution before the Florida House of Representatives honoring Warren for his contribution to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, which was read at Warren’s funeral. Judge Warren presented the framed artifact to the Board, which becomes part of the museum’s growing collection.

The next step for the committee is raising funds — by comparison to many similar projects, the price tag for this renovation, according to Burton, is small at somewhere between $150,000 and $300,000.

For more information on the museum and to make a donation, visit their website at http://civilrightsmuseumstaug.webs.com/ or follow them on facebook http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003562276618

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer

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