The church was the spiritual home of Martin Luther King’s grandparents, Celia and James King. According to the church’s website, the church was founded in 1856. There’s a sign in the cemetery that gives the date if 1853, so I am gathering the cemetery predates the church. Either way, this is an early date for a Black church to be in existence.
San Sebastian and Pinehurst Cemeteries are located in West St. Augustine on Pearl Street. The two cemeteries are next to each other and are stated to be among the oldest Black cemeteries in the state of Florida. There is conflicting information on whether the cemeteries began before or after the Civil War.
The cemeteries contain a mixture of commercial and vernacular headstones, along with military ones. Additionally, there are mementos left on many graves. Everything from conch shells to dolls is scattered throughout.
There is no truth that carved chains on a headstone mean someone is born into slavery. Most chains represent the fraternal organization Fraternal Order of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows. They are frequently joined with the letters “ F L T,” which stands for “Friendship, Love, Truth.”
I read several journal articles about the documentation of slave and Black cemeteries, and there was no mention that markers with chains meant someone was born into slavery. What is consistently mentioned are broken dish ware, clocks, shells, and different plants.
A circle of chains, broken or unbroken, can represent death or hope respectively.
This cemetery shared two borders with the all-white cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery.
I love this mausoleum. This Art Moderne mausoleum belongs to the Craddock family, a once prominent Black family in Jacksonville, Florida. James “Charlie Edd” Craddock ran several nightclubs in the area. The Two Spot was dubbed in the NAACP magazine as “the finest dance place in the country owned by a Negro”. He also had several other business ventures that made him incredibly successful.
He is buried in what once was a prominent Black cemetery that will be restored.
Established by a Leo Benedict, a local businessman, in 1909, Memorial Cemetery is one of several Black cemeteries on Moncrief Road in Jacksonville, Florida. By 1911, the cemetery was run by the Memorial Cemetery Association.
The association utilized the Afro-American Life Insurance Company to manage the day to day operations of the cemetery. Abraham Lincoln Lewis served as the president of the company. When it disbanded, the Lewis family continued to manage the cemetery. They managed it until the 1980s when the family turned to a non-profit to run the cemetery. It disbanded and now the city of Jacksonville runs it.
Abraham Lincoln Lewis (1865-1947) was the first Black millionaire in Florida. He started the Afro-American Life Insurance Company in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to several other businesses he owned, he bought acres of beachfront to create a vacation spot known as American Beach. It became a safe haven for Black Americans to vacation during segregation.
The Art Deco style mausoleum was designed by Leeroy Sheftall and is located in Memorial Cemetery.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic palaces in 1997.
Booker T. Washington was an educator, speaker, author, and benefactor. He was the first president of Tuskegee University when it was known as Tuskegee Institute. His accomplishments are numerous. From working with Julius Rosenwald to start the fund for Rosenwald schools to traveling the world to speak on issues that impacted the Black community, Washington was a tireless advocate for change. Many members of the Black community supported his belief that the focus should be on education and wealth accumulation. Whereas there were those, who disagreed with him and felt that he bowed to white interests by not pushing forward an agenda based on civil rights and political representation.
“The Oaks” is a large Victorian that sits next to campus. Tuskegee’s students helped build the home that Washington and his family moved into in 1900.
In 1915, Booker T. Washington passed away. It was believed that he died from congestive heart failure and kidney disease that was caused by the stress of his work (later examination of his medical records indicated that he was suffering from very high blood pressure). Over 8,000 people attended his funeral. He is buried in the campus’s cemetery, which is next to the Chapel.