Juneteenth Ribbon-Cutting for Relocated Canright House: St. Johns County Civil Rights Landmark

Today, St. Johns County commemorated the Juneteenth holiday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Collier-Blocker-Puryear Park (10 N. Holmes Blvd., St. Augustine) for the relocated Canright House: A Civil Rights Landmark.

Juneteenth recognizes the day (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.

Sarah Arnold, Chair and District 2 representative of the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners, was the first guest speaker. She congratulated all involved on the successful move of the Canright House—a home where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was scheduled to stay in the 60s before it was vandalized by segregationists—from Butler Beach to West Augustine, a decision made during the Board’s regular Feb. 20 meeting.

“As the representative for District 2, I couldn’t be more excited about the history this represents,” Commissioner Arnold said.

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. “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.

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. “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.”

Following a ribbon-cutting on the front steps of the Canright House, attendees were able to tour the house’s interior, where wall-mounted placards explained the history of the house and the 1963–1964 St. Augustine segment of the Civil Rights Movement, and a TV played video of the house’s trip from Butler Beach to West Augustine.