County Holds Ribbon-cutting for Civil Rights Landmark

St. Johns County officials commemorated the Juneteenth holiday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Collier-Blocker-Puryear in St. Augustine for the relocated Canright House, according to a media release.

Juneteenth recognizes the day  on June 19, 1865 when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that the Emancipation Proclamation had freed the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state by executive decree.

The Canright House is a home where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was scheduled to stay in the 60s before it was vandalized by segregationists.

“As the representative for District 2, I couldn’t be more excited about the history this represents,” County Commission Chair Sarah Arnold said in the release.

Greg White, founder and president of the West Augustine Historical Community Development Corporation, highlighted the concentration of Black history that could now be found at Collier-Blocker-Puryear Park, where stone arches mark the former site of Florida Normal and Industrial Memorial College.

“It is amazing that we are able to preserve this history,” White said in the release. “Thank you to St. Johns County—administrators and all.”

Dwala Willis, co-chair of the West Augustine Community Redevelopment Agency Steering Committee, explained why the West Augustine community was so eager to accept the Canright House at Collier-Blocker-Puryear Park.

“It will be a place where [the house] will always be respected and protected, as well as honor the life, legacy, and dream of Dr. King’s fight for unity, racial equality, and a just America,” Willis said in the release.

After a dance performance by St. Mary’s Praise Team, set to music that included excerpts from speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Parks and Recreation Director Ryan Kane offered closing remarks on the significance of the house’s presence on park property.

“I believe a park is where community comes to be community, and this screams that for us,” Kane said in the release. “This is where the community can come out, see the history, play at the playground… Next steps are a campus that includes the Florida Museum of Black History.”