Thomas Jackson wants to “tell it all” about St. Augustine’s history.
st. AUGUSTINE, FL—The new leader of the St. Augustine Historical Society board of directors was barred from entering one of his buildings because of the color of his skin.
“I was born and raised here in St. Augustine,” said Thomas Jackson.
“There were only two black students in the class,” he recalled, flipping through the 1969 St. Joseph Academy yearbook.
Jackson has just been selected for a new position.
“I am the first African-American president of the St. Augustine Historical Society,” he said. He learned this after asking for a list of the previous board of trustees, dating back to 1883. As far as he knows, he is the first black person to hold the position.
That association runs the Historical Research Library on Aviles Street. When Jackson grew up, the building was the town’s public library, segregated.
So he and his friends went to the town’s black library in Lincolnville.
Today, Jackson serves as president of the St. Augustine Historical Society and also oversees what was once a white man’s library.
The St. Augustine Historical Society’s staff and executive director run the day-to-day operations, and there is a board of directors that “maintains the association’s overall vision,” Jackson explained.
“Anytime you tell a story, it’s told a certain way based on who’s telling it,” Jackson said.
For example, he pointed to two statues of St. Augustine in the library courtyard. They are statues of Confederate General Kirby Smith and Dr. Alexander Durnes. A lot has been shared about Smith, a white male, over the years. But few people know the history of Darnes, who was once a slave to Smith’s father.
“And Dr. Darnes was the first black doctor in Florida,” Jackson said.
Jackson said first coast news He was a “lifelong amateur historian”.
“I’ve seen a lot,” said his quiet voice.
Too young to walk the civil rights movement in 1960s St. Augustine. He hid in the bushes to see who had been arrested or injured and reported the information to the organizers of the demonstration.
Jackson remembers the arrest of Dr. Martin Luther King in St. Augustine in 1964.
It also actively depicts colonial-era black soldiers at Fort Morse State Park.
“There’s a lot of history that I discovered and was a part of. And other people were a part of it and it’s not being told. That’s what I can do in my position.” It’s one of the reasons why I feel like I’m doing it. Hope you can help.”
He says he wants to “tell the whole story.”
Jackson stopped and nodded. “yes.”