Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr. in St. Augustine, 1964

Commemorative holidays such as yesterday's Martin Luther King, Jr. day, promote awareness and remembrance of past events. It was not until many years after I moved to Florida, when I began studying history, that I learned that in the summer of 1964, St. Augustine was the site of heated civil rights protests, and that Martin Luther King Jr. had been jailed there. A sense of the summer's events can be found in the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee's 1965 report, Racial and Civil Disorders in St. Augustine, and 26 minutes of original footage of wade-ins, speeches, and Florida troopers, available through the Florida Memory Project.

One of the summer's focal points became the Monson Lodge, a whites-only motel. First, Rev. King was arrested for "trespassing" at the motel. Then, when some white and black civil rights supporters went for a swim together at the Monson, the motel's owner sought to intimidate the swimmers by pouring muriatic acid into the pool.

Forty years later, the Monson Motor Lodge was an aging establishment on the Avenida Menendez, which had become a trendy street in St. Augustine. In 2003, the Monson was demolished to make way for a new Hilton Garden Inn. The concrete steps where Rev. King was standing when arrested were preserved, but the rest of the building and swimming pool are gone.

St. Augustine is a very old city, with literally layers of history. Underneath the Monson, where the Hilton hotel's underground garage is now, were the "the remains of 25 or so historic buildings and hundreds of archaeological features." The archaeologists actually started their excavations before the motel was torn down, chipping through the guest room floors.

So, should the Monson have been preserved in place, kept as it was in the 1960s, or is the Hilton simply the latest in a long chain of events in America's oldest city?


  1. heh, ripping out old stuff for new glitz...sounds familiar.

    My mom's girlhood neighbor was Holstead Manucy, who was a Grand Dragon in the KKK. He threatened to assassinate MLK when he came here in 1964.

    My mom hated him (Holstead), by the way.

  2. Have you read The Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida by Michael Newton? Manucy is mentioned several times on pages 163-174, in connection with St. Augustine of 1964.

  3. Anonymous11:23 PM

    My grandfather is Holstead Manucy and I believe he stood up for what he believed in at that time. Is there something wrong with someone standing up for what they belive.You may have your oppinon of him but you really didn't know him because if you did you would know he would help anybody. It's no different than people protesting now for what they believe. It's just a little more organized

  4. Anonymous9:59 PM

    to anonymous: yes, there is something wrong for people who stand up for what they believe in when that belief means harm to others. I cannot believe I have to say this, it's apparent nobody posted after you because they think it's a waste of time addressing such comments. Hitler believed in what he was doing too. Believing in something doesn't make it right.

  5. Anonymous2:23 PM

    Standing up for "what you believe in" is your constitutional right. Threatening to kill people, however, is illegal, unacceptable, and shows the true character of an individual who is so selfish and so filled with hatred that they can't sort out right from wrong. Our society cannot move forward in love unless we learn from the mistakes of Holstead Manucy and the likes of him.

  6. Anonymous11:17 PM

    I'm proud to say Jimmy Brock ( the owner of the Monson ) was my friend. He was a good man who was caught between the segregationists and the integrationists, trying to make a living in a segregated town. The muriatic acid incident is famous, but what is less known is that as soon as the Civil Rights law of 64 was passed he announced that he would abide by the law. he served blacks a few days after the new law passed and he was punished for this by having his motel firebombed, presumably by the Klan. He was almost bankrupted by the events of 64. Later in life he had every right to sell his property, as much right as anyone. The government or the historic preservationists had every right to buy it, but they did not step forward. The Hilton developer who bought it had his project put through a great deal of scrutiny by the city and the result is a beautiful hotel - a much nicer one than the Monson - which is a asset to the city. And Jimmy Brock got a little money to enjoy his few remaining years on this earth.

  7. Ruth . Payne2:47 PM

    I grew up in Daytona Bch. and the hate from the white folks was really uncall for.I grew up with the "whites Only". But you know all people of the world are like "eggs",once you open the eggs,they have the same color,white and the yellow yolk.So once you peel the outer layer's, we ALL are made the same,all the blood is red,the lungs,heart,liver,etc. is the Same.

  8. Ruth . Payne2:57 PM

    I grew up in Daytona Bch. and at that time we as black was not allowed to be on the "White Beach".So I grew up with the "whites only". But the hate from the white folk was horrible.But all the people of this world on earth are the same except the color of our skin.We"re like eggs,the inside is the same no matter what color the shell is,open an egg, you're see the white of the egg,and you have the yolk,it's all the same,the color of your skin is like the shell of an egg.The blood is red in every human that lives,the heart is the,so is the lungs,liver,kidney,etc.We are the same,built by God to be humans of the same kind.


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