Unity on Display at the Silent March in St. Augustine - A Great Contrast to Recent Events at the Plaza

2022 Silent March in St. Augustine James Jackson with the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee of St Johns County
2022 Silent March in St. Augustine James Jackson and Thomas Jackson with the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee of St Johns County 

People of all ages, of all colors and from all walks of life united to walk in the silent march in St. Augustine to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and those who sacrificed so much for equal right during the civil rights movement in St. Augustine in the early 1960s.


When the march turned the corner from Martin Luther King Avenue out onto King Street, the chills could be felt, as younger generations walked side by side with those, who once walked the same streets with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and with the civil rights movement in St. Augustine. 

2022 Silent March St. Augustine James Jackson

There were people such as James Jackson, who had been kidnapped and beaten by the KKK, and Thomas Ford, who was jailed at the age of 14 for trying to be served at McCrory's a department store once located on St. George Street in St. Augustine.


James Jackson and Thomas Ford TK civil rights activists at the 2022 Silent march in St. Augustine
Thomas Ford "TK" and James Jackson civil rights activists at the 2022 silent march in St. Augustine.

James Jackson, a long-time activist walked behind the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee of St. Johns County for most of the silent march. James Jackson walked with King, and as he inched forward to the front of the silent march entering the Plaza de la Constitucion, history was acknowledged in the most impressive way, because instead of being attacked by a mob of anger, James Jackson side by side with Thomas Jackson, the chair of the committee, crossed into the plaza where they were embraced by marchers of all colors.

"Growing up in St. Augustine, I was a little boy, and I tried to hang out with the big guys," said Thomas Jackson to the crowd gathered in the plaza. "They said 'you are too young to go to jail', and I thought it was a travesty that I couldn't go to jail with the other guys. The job I got was as a runner. My job was to sit amongst the hedges and sit and watch the groups that went into the store to sit down to get served, and to observe what happened. Whether they did get served, or whether they were arrested. If they did arrest them and take them to jail, I would have to run back to First Baptist or St. Mary's and tell the head leader of the group that group number #14 or group #19 had been arrested. That was the only way that the family of that group would know, they had been arrested and to go down and check on them."

It was a solemn moment to see those who fought for equal rights in St. Augustine walk unharmed into the plaza. Yet, St. Augustine Mayor Tracy Upchurch reminded the attendees that all has not been won.


"The fact that in this space, quite literally this space, 50 years ago Dr. King and so many others, our foot soldiers, were met here by people that were violently opposed to them. And in many ways, they symbolized their opposition by carrying the confederate flag. And I am struck that on January 6th of this year, the confederate flag was flying again quite literally in this space, as there was a group of people, who wanted to continue to deny, continue to reinterpret what happened on January 6th. And how grateful I am to be here with you with your message of love, your message that emulates what Dr. King taught all of us, as opposed to those who were there with the confederate flag." 

Jimmy Wheeler with Elton Phillip and Tony Edwards
Jimmy Wheeler with Elton Phillip and Tony Edwards


The silent march and the commemorative event at the plaza drew many from all across St. Augustine and Jacksonville, and West Augustine was greatly represented.

Reverend Anthony Britton from New Mt. Moriah Christian Ministries in West Augustine
Reverend Anthony Britton from New Mt. Moriah Christian Ministries in West Augustine spoke at the event in the Plaza.


Arthur Culbert with Lydia and Greg White at the silent march in St. Augustine
Arthur Culbert with Lydia and Greg White at the silent march in St. Augustine 

Kierra Smith with School Board Member Anthony Coleman Sr. From District 2.
West Augustine's Kierra Smith with School Board Member Anthony Coleman Sr. From District 2.


The West Augustine Nature Society receiving an award for the most youth st the silent march in St. Augustine
A few of the members from the West Augustine Nature Society receiving an award for bringing the most youth to the silent march in St. Augustine 




Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee of St. Johns County works hard every year to put on the Martin Luther King Day event in St. Augustine, and this year was the 37th annual commemorative event, which started with a breakfast at Flagler college before finishing off at the silent march and the event at the plaza.

Cynthia Williams, director of the Office for Innovation and Equity for the St. Johns County School District is the vice chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee.

Cynthia Williams, director of the Office for Innovation and Equity for the St. Johns County School District, is the vice chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee. "I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me. I often think of myself as a young student here in St. Johns County, and I had teachers and coaches who took extra time out with me when there were times that I was struggling as a child and in my family, and they wrapped their arms around me, and they followed me through the whole process of me getting into specific classes and me getting into college. They really supported me. I feel that they saved my life, and had it not been for them, I don't know where I would have been, so I want to give that back to our students. And I do that through my participation with the MLK Committee."


2022 silent march in St. Augustine Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee.


When asked why he chose to spearhead the committee, Thomas Jackson responded. "If not me, who? If not now, when? So, I look at it like this, if I don't do it, I don't have any reason or excuse to complain about it not being done. So, I take it on because Dr. King was a member of my fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, and he gave his life for the cause that he believed in. If you don't believe in something, you might fall for anything. His life and legacy is one worth emulating, and that is why I do it, because I want to do something that means something." 






Read Kidnapped and Beaten by the KKK but Never Silenced - James Jackson a Living Legend in Our Midst to learn more about James Jackson's experience during the civil rights movement in St. Augustine.

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