If It Takes All Summer: Martin Luther King, the KKK, and States' Rights in St. Augustine, 1964

If It Takes All Summer: Martin Luther King, the KKK, and States' Rights in St. Augustine, 1964

If It Takes All Summer: Martin Luther King, the KKK, and States' Rights in St. Augustine, 1964

If It Takes All Summer: Martin Luther King, the KKK, and States' Rights in St. Augustine, 1964

Excerpt

In the summer of 1964, as the elected state attorney for Florida's Seventh Judicial Circuit, a huge circuit that included St. Augustine, I watched as the “nation's oldest city” became the final battleground in the long struggle for passage of a meaningful civil rights bill. Die-hard segregationists, who believed that the War between the States had been fought but not lost, opposed any concession to equality for black citizens. They were quickly joined in the fight by the Klan, the nation's oldest homegrown terrorist organization.

The Lost Cause myth—which proclaims that southerners fought the Civil War not to maintain the “peculiar institution” but to preserve the sanctity of states' rights and emphasizes battlefield glory instead of Confederate defeat—was very much alive in St. Augustine. In the previous summer, the flames of hatred and prejudice that lay smoldering in the ashes of a burned-out system of customs and beliefs suddenly burst forth and became a raging fire.

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously settled city in the United States. In 1564 Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain seized Ft. Caroline, located near the mouth of the St. Johns River, from the French. A year later he founded a city some thirty-five miles to the south, which he named St. Augustine. On March 11, 1963, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was the speaker at a dinner held in St. Augustine to organize the new Quadricentennial Commission, established by Congress to plan the elaborate celebration in 1965 for the four hundredth anniversary of . . .

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