The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is one of many local heritage organizations supporting the recognition of African, European and Native American cultural history in the Nation’s Oldest PortSM through new markers placed at the Castillo de San Marcos and Mission Nombre de Dios.


In one of many commemorations of St. Augustine’s 450 year history, the St. Augustine Middle Passage Committee, the Black Catholic Commission of the Diocese of St. Augustine, and representatives of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Commission on Saturday, February 7, 2015, at the Castillo de San Marcos and at the Mission Nombre de Dios will honor African ancestors.

14092269089_2ba0fd6150_mAlong with supporting co-sponsors they will conduct a remembrance ceremony and install a marker celebrating the diverse settlement of St. Augustine and its African, European, and Native American cultural and religious heritage.

Middle Passage is the designation given to the transatlantic journey to the New World made principally by Africans captured to be sold into slavery in the Americas. They, along with Europeans, free Africans, and Native Americans, comprised the city’s earliest inhabitants since the 16th century.

Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP), a national non-profit that addresses this history at numerous documented African arrival sites in the U.S., has partnered with the local committee to honor enslaved Africans, many of whom perished in the voyage, and the survivors’ descendants who were a vital part of establishing St. Augustine since 1565.

The commemorative ceremony at the Castillo de San Marcos begins at noon on the north lawn and will include Seminole Chief Justice Willie Johns, spiritual advisor Malidoma Some, Reverend Israel of Mt. Carmel Primitive Baptist Church, the Sons of Israel Congregation, the Jacksonville Islamic Center, Dr. Dorothy Israel of the Fort Mose Historical Society, Reverend Ted Voorhees of St. Cyprian Episcopal Church, and Professor William Hamilton, Jr. of the Buddhist lay organization, Soka Gakkai International.

The unveiling of a historic marker, contributed by the Black Catholic Commission of the Diocese of St. Augustine, is scheduled for 3:00 pm at the Mission Nombre de Dios grounds. This marker provides the history of the first Black Christian community and the continued contributions of Africans’ descendants to the port city. Florida’s first Black ordained Roman Catholic priest, Reverend James R. Boddie, Jr., pastor of Christ the King parish, will represent the Bishop and Diocese at the event.

St. Augustine’s significance as one of the earliest documented African arrival sites in the U.S. illustrates the intersection of cultures and our ancestors’ role in creating an on-going local and national identity.

One purpose of this initiative is to provide a means of remembering and healing for the descendants of Africans and the nation as a whole. For St. Augustine the historical reality requires a reassessment of popular perception.

With the ceremony and installation of a permanent marker in the vicinity where Pedro Menendez de Aviles is purported to have arrived in 1565, St. Augustine will more accurately be identified as the oldest European/African/Native American permanent settlement in the United States of America.


For more information, please contact Ann Chinn, Executive Director, MPCPMP at or visit