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Youth and young adults were present and active in the civil rights movement. The St. Augustine Four, Audrey Nell Edwards, JoeAnn Anderson Ulmer, Willie Carl Singleton, and Samuel White are among the trailblazers who made their mark on the civil rights movement.
The St. Augustine Four were arrested in July 1963 for attempting to integrate a whites-only lunch counter at a local Woolworths. Following their arrest, local law enforcement tried to force them to promise they would no longer participate in further demonstrations. The St. Augustine Four refused. The group was also pressed to say the organizer of the movement in St. Augustine, Dr. Robert Hayling was to blame for contributing to the delinquency of minors. The St. Augustine Four again refused.
Backed by their families and the community, The St. Augustine Four stood firm, refusing to concede. In response, they were jailed by the sheriff and then sent to reform school. The NAACP attempted to gain their release. The judge informed them that the issue was now beyond local jurisdiction. It took special action from the governor of Florida to get them released in January of 1964 (nearly six months later).
Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr., called the St. Augustine Four “my warriors.” Jackie Robinson (first African American to play major league baseball). Robinson and his wife took two members of the St. Augustine Four, Audrey Nell Edwards and JoeAnn Anderson, into their home in Connecticut to recover after being released from reform school. Nearly four decades later, it would not be until 2004 that the St. Augustine Four would receive recognition for their efforts. The three surviving members of the St. Augustine Four and their families attended, along with relatives of the fourth (Carle Singleton).
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for protesting in St. Augustine. It was an extremely dangerous place, and many feared he could be killed there. A Grand Jury convened and ordered Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to leave St. Augustine for one month because their presence disrupted “racial harmony”. Dr. King refused and told the Grand Jury that St. Augustine had never been peaceful in terms of racial harmony.
The violence was so rampant in St. Augustine that Dr. King requested assistance from the federal government to encourage the white community to negotiate in good faith. The movement began to achieve some momentum when Judge Bryan Simpson continually ruled in favor of the movement. He even encouraged the SCLC to bring suit against the Klu Klux Clan and other white supremacist organizations. On June 30, 1964, the governor of Florida announced the convening of a biracial committee to restore interracial communication in St. Augustine. Issues were far from resolved, but some progress was being made. SCLC leaders left St. Augustine the day before President Lyndon Johnson signed the civil rights bill into law. However, Black residents in St. Augustine continued to face violence and threats.
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