FLORIDA’S ST. AUGUSTINE — The Old Slave Market is located at the east end of the square and is most likely familiar to visitors to America’s Oldest City. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the truths of what actually occurred there about 200 years ago.St. Augustine historian David Nolan spoke with Action News Jax.”I definitely hear it every year from someone who claims there have never been any slave sales on the slave market. That just seems like a symptom of denial to me,” Nolan added.
The structure was constructed in 1824, making it approximately 200 years old.According to Nolan, slaves were sold at the market as evidenced by newspapers from the 1800s and court documents. Millions of postcards were purchased, according to Nolan. In front of the slave market in St. Augustine, “they placed an elderly Black man pretending to be a former slave.” To begin their rounds, slave patrols would gather at the market.
Black folks who disobeyed curfew were apprehended and punished in the market once they were there. The worst one, according to Nolan, is from the 1860s, when a Black man made fun of the slave patrol. When they took offense, they gave him 15 lashes.One picture Nolan showed Action News Jax depicts a woman called Nora August being bought at the market in 1860 when she was 23 years old.
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It ends with the phrase “now a free lady.” They occasionally sold people in addition to selling vegetables and meat, according to Nolan. Later, the building was used as a location for gatherings and demonstrations, notably the large-scale protest in 1964 following the imprisonment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I’ve long believed that we need a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of that building, with the inscription “free at last, free at last” – because that will explain the entire tale of the structure,” the author says.It was suggested to be renamed “the flower market” in 1964, according to Nolan.
In order to intimidate the neighborhood’s Black population, the Klan organized frequent demonstrations there as well.Any historic building in St. Augustine has a lot of layers of history, according to Nolan. “You need to think about whether this is one of those structures that solely communicates bad things, or whether it is a part of a heroic tale of conquering those problems.