Help preserve St Benedict the Moor School


Help preserve St Benedict the Moor School

Thomas J. Jackson
Special to Historic City News

The goal of the St. Benedict the Moor Preservation Association Inc., is to preserve the church’s historically significant school building and the story of its involvement with the civil rights movement.

St. Benedict the Moor School was built in 1898 by a wealthy heiress, Katherine Drexel, destined to become a canonized saint. The school, originally named for St. Cecelia, is located at 86 Martin Luther King Avenue in the Lincolnville National Historic District.

It has a very unique history encompassing courageous Catholic women at one of the first schools in the new world dedicated to educating the children of freed African American slaves.

  • The Sisters of St. Joseph traveled from France for the sole purpose of educating the newly freed blacks of the Diocese of St Augustine.
  • In 1916 three of the Sisters of St. Joseph were arrested for teaching black children at St. Benedict the Moor School.
  • The school is associated with one of the first legal cases in Florida dealing with civil rights and desegregation.

The Preservation Association seeks to draw attention to the story of the original St. Benedict the Moor School and to raise funds for the restoration and preservation of the deteriorating building.

Ultimately, the mission is to have a multi-functional space, which will tell the stories of the Sisters of St. Joseph and local African American history and to provide public space for local educational and community purposes.

The building and grounds remain the property of the Catholic Diocese of St Augustine. Recently, with permission from the Diocese, the Friends of St. Benedict Association, with assistance from A. D. Davis Construction, applied for and were awarded a small matching grant from the State of Florida to aid in stabilization of the building.

Delays have been encountered after subsequent engineering reports revealed more extensive foundational damage than was originally thought. The scope of work for Phase I of the project was amended to include stabilizing and re-shoring of the current walls to prevent catastrophic collapse during the restoration process of the remainder of the current structure.

The good news is that there has been a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes; and soon, you will be seeing some activity on the site as Phase I of the restoration process moves forward.

This old school building is a rich treasure trove of history and we will work tirelessly to see it restored. It has become an undertaking that will require enormous dedication and scarce resources, but we are committed to the project and, with support from the community, it will happen.

If you would like to be involved or would like to make a donation, please contact us at Friends of St. Benedict, 86 Martin Luther King Avenue, St. Augustine, FL 32084, e-mail or like us on Facebook.

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