Black History Month: Lincolnville Led the Way

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ST. AUGUSTINE, FL -- By the 1960's, Lincolnville had become a vibrant African American neighborhood - a stronghold of middle-class values and commerce.

"Lincolnville was never totally segregated in terms of living," resident Otis Mason said. "I can recall when I was a kid on the corner of, what is now M.L. King and Lincoln Street, there were a couple of grocery stores located in the immediate neighborhood that were owned and operated by Jewish families."

"Oh we were a close-knit family of people," Essie Bush said. "I had fun in Lincolnville."

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"We were not totally segregated," Mason said. "White families lived in the community as well."

While its influence on the local economy grew, these advances were only going to go so far in the face of segregation.

I could not attend the University of Florida. I went down for an interview," Mason said. "It was very interesting about the results of my visit there. I was told that I spoke very well. That`s all I heard."

"My father was a teacher and he was told that if he participated in the movement, he would lose his job," Thomas Jackson said.

Fearing retribution, many of St. Augustine`s middle-class blacks were either hesitant or silent about the growing Civil Rights movement.

There needed to be a new front opened in the fight against segregation, and there was no better place to do it than in a city about to celebrate its 400th birthday.