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Black Women Veterans of Movement to Desegregate St. Augustine will Never Forget what they Endured

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tags: civil rights, Florida, African American history, St. Augustine



Even now, after all this time, the memories are raw.

Cora Tyson, 99, still hears the wailing. She sees the teenagers sprinting back from late-night demonstrations at the old slave market, blood streaming down their faces. She pictures the startling serenity of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on her porch at 81 Bridge Street as he sips her sweet tea and watches the dark limousines with black skeleton flags, followed by a march of White men in white robes.

Half a mile away, Janie Young Price, 96, has no trouble summoning the outrage she felt when she emerged from her hospital shift and found her Buick Electra turned upside down. She can still hear the hate at the Howard Johnson restaurant when a nearby White woman held her nose and said, “Ew, it stinks in here! Somebody must have left the sewer open.”

Not two miles west, Barbara Vickers, 99, remembers crouching in this small house on Scott Street as pickup trucks tore past, belligerent young men peppering the porch with buckshot. She vividly recalls the time night riders shot into the house of her neighbor, the leader of the local civil rights movement, killing his dog and terrifying his two young daughters.

St. Augustine, Fla., the oldest continuously inhabited city in the continental United States, is built on history. The year 1565, when Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés settled here, is splashed across virtually every hat and T-shirt hawked in the bustling outdoor market. Trolley drivers crow about the oldest street, the oldest school and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth.

Elusive as it might have been for Florida’s European discoverer, the fountain flows freely through the veins of Vickers and Tyson, who celebrated their 99th birthdays a few days apart this spring, and Price, who turned 96 a few days earlier. These three Black women are St. Augustine’s grandes dames of civil rights. Among them, they have decades of razor-sharp long-term memory, a double-edged gift.

Long widowed, the women have lost some of their mobility and hearing but still live in the homes where they resided in 1964, when the city was convulsed by racial hatred.

Read entire article at Washington Post

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