Letter: Thank you for helping our family profit and survive in the south

Derek Boyd Hankerson
St Augustine, FL

Dear Historic City News Editor:

I’m thrilled to have had members of my family who served in both southern and northern military units during the American Civil War, to include the 54th Massachusetts.  Many were mixed breed (mulatto), some were Americans of African descent, and some were Caucasian.

I find it compelling to deal with some in the local St. Augustine community that do nothing but complain about what they didn’t get.  Black businesses and colleges were run out of town during the civil rights movement, while others were mucking up tourism in St. Augustine.

I’m continuing to focus on learning about my maternal and paternal West African and European relatives and their heritage.  They established many communities throughout the United States including the community of Armstrong and Lincolnville; or, “Little Africa” as it was known, pre-President Lincoln.

My relatives, free people pre-1865, were not about carrying picket signs, protesting, destroying the property of others, or running to be like everyone else.  Rather, as veterans, business owners, physicians, and ministers, they continued educating and defending themselves while contributing positively to the community of St. Augustine, and other areas where they lived.

There were 1.1 million free black families, people of color in America, and we were one of them.  I don’t think and never have, with a “slave mentality”.   

I have done enough with my own family resources for St. Augustine, St. Johns County, and Florida itself, to help improve tourism.  My life’s work is proof, I put my money where my mouth is.  As a result of our contributions over the last 15 years, tourism is again humming in the Oldest City of St. Augustine and the State of Florida

My point, I’m not fighting everyone else’s battles.  I’m fighting my own and finding I’m at peace with myself and the world.  I contributed handsomely to Florida and St. Johns County as a way of saying “thank you” for helping this family profit and survive in the south.