Local historian Scott Grant delivered a presentation July 25 in Nocatee entitled “The Summer of 1964,” detailing the history of civil rights in St. Johns County and the crucial events that led to the Civil Rights Act.
According to Grant, just one photograph changed the course of civil rights history. On June 11, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King and a group of his supporters attempted to enter the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, which was owned and operated by Jimmy Brock. They were not allowed to do so, and King consequently spent three nights in jail.
"A week later, everyone is back at the Monson Motor Inn," Grant said at the event in the Nocatee Room. "In the morning, they have a pray-in and Brock is beside himself at this point."
Evidently, 17 rabbis were arrested at Brock's restaurant for praying on the property as a form of protest. As the Rabbis were sent to jail, Grant explained, seven students jumped into the hotel swimming pool. Two of them were white and five of them were black, he added.
"Brock takes two bottles of muriatic acid and he runs around the pool, pouring the acid into the pool while the kids scream in horror," Grant said. "Photographers from all over the world sit there, snapping this shot. It is — in my mind — the most iconic photograph to come out of the civil rights movement."
Grant said an off-duty St. Johns County deputy jumped into the pool and dragged the students out. They were arrested and taken to jail under Florida's "unwanted guest" law. However, Grant noted the photo ran worldwide the very next day. According to the historian, the event and the ensuing photograph led to President Lyndon B. Johnson ultimately signing the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964.
Additionally, Grant explained the controversy surrounding a local Beatles concert and its impact on civil rights history.
"(The Beatles) are scheduled to perform at the Gator Bowl in September of 1964," Grant said. "There is one problem, the Gator Bowl is segregated. The Beatles don't like that."
Despite the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and The Beatles’ public demand for a racially-unified concert, Grant noted that Jacksonville officials insisted on segregation at the Gator Bowl.
"The Beatles issue a press statement," Grant said. "They say unless whites and negros are allowed to sit together, we will not come. The city relents, and the concert is saved."
But there was one problem. On Sept. 10, 1964, one day before the concert, Hurricane Dora made landfall.
Still, Grant said the band unrelentingly performed their standard 12-song set on Sept. 11 — as scheduled.
A new venture
Grant, the president and CEO of Standfast Asset Management, is also working on a documentary for the Summer of 1964 presentation. As a result, the historian is starting a new venture called Standfast Productions to get his documentary off the ground and supply digital content for other projects.
“We're interested in video generally,” he said. “Video for the investment company's needs and we're looking to try and do some video and some promotion work for some other companies. We're going to make short videos for us and for other people and we're going to do that to promote other businesses.”
Grant hopes to get the documentary syndicated on major outlets such as PBS or Netflix.