Martin Luther King, Jr. visited St. Augustine in 1964. He was arrested for attempting to eat at a whites-only restaurant at the Monson Motel (since demolished). He spent one night in jail in St. Johns County, but was transferred to the Duval County Jail (now demolished). His hearing was heard before a grand jury at the federal courthouse in Jacksonville (not demolished).

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being escorted away from the Grand Jury in 1964. Photograph courtesy of State Archives of Florida

These photos from the State Archives of Florida show Dr. King speaking in St. Augustine, and it says the photo with the police dog is from St. Augustine, but it also says it is him leaving the Grand Jury, which makes me think it was taken in Jacksonville. I point out what has been demolished because as a historic preservationist, it is painful to see such significant sites removed. We still have a chance to highlight the history at the Jacksonville courthouse.

The former federal courthouse in Downtown Jacksonville.

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. The large house in which we live demands that we transform this worldwide neighborhood into a worldwide brotherhood. Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

Judge Bryan Simpson’s courtroom where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. testified in 1964. Photograph courtesy of Ennis Davis, AICP.

Editorial by Adrienne Burke, AICP, Esq.