Woolworth lunch counter to be dedicated as civil rights exhibit


The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center in St. Augustine will host a dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting of the installation of the Woolworth lunch counter into a civil rights exhibit on June 18.

The section of the lunch counter was originally part of the F.W. Woolworth store in St. Augustine. The counter tells an important chapter in African-Americans’ struggle for civil rights as it’s where teenagers staged a sit-in in 1963 to integrate the segregated cafeteria.

Following the dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting, the center, the City of Augustine and Wells Fargo will host a Juneteenth Heritage Luncheon at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The ticketed luncheon will feature remarks from civil rights leader J.T. Johnson, one of the protesters who jumped into a whites-only pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine. In an attempt to force Black swimmers out, the owner of the hotel poured acid into the pool. The protest became a rallying cry to end a filibuster and vote to approve the Civil Rights Bill of 1964.

The dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting of the Woolworth Lunch Counter exhibit will be held in honor of Juneteenth, a new official U.S. federal holiday. It will include a formal proclamation from the City of St. Augustine.

The ceremony is free to attend and begins at 10 a.m. To purchase tickets to the Juneteenth Heritage luncheon, call the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center.

The Woolworth lunch counter exhibit serves as a remembrance of the challenges faced by activists and their drive to create a more harmonious and inclusive community that is equitable for all. The lunch counter also reflects St. Augustine’s connection to emancipation and the civil rights movement.

Area high school students staged sit-ins at the Woolworth store on Kings Street in St. Augustine in 1963 and were arrested. Four students refused to sign an anti-protest agreement offered by a judge and were sent to jail, later becoming known as The St. Augustine Four. The story of The St. Augustine Four became famous when Jackie Robinson heard of their plight and flew them to New York after they were released.

The Woolworth store later became a Wells Fargo branch. Courtesy of former St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles, the owner of the exhibit, a section of the lunch counter was on display at the branch until February 2022.

The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center received a grant from Wells Fargo to rehouse the civil rights artifact so that it can be remembered and viewed by the public.

The Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center is located at 102 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., St. Augustine.

For more information, go to lincolnvillemuseum.org or call 904-824-1191.