Freedom Fighters, Freed From Criminal Record

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

Tallahassee, FL - June 25th, 1964. Civil rights activists marched on St. Augustine Beach in an attempt to shine a light on the injustice of segregation. A news reel stored by the Florida memory project captures the moment. Purcell Conway was there that day. He was 15.

“Besides being beaten and nearly killed trying to integrate a beach, I guess that’s about it. Arrested a number of times,” said Conway.

For two years in St. Augustine, hundreds of freedom fighter were beaten, shot at and arrested during protests and sit-ins. 66 year old Barbara James was poked with a cattle prod. She was 21 at the time.

“I was grown so I knew what I was doing. I knew what I was fighting for. I want better for my kids and my grandkids,” said James.

Thursday at the state capitol, about a dozen of the St. Augustine freedom fighters were honored for their bravery. Governor Charlie Crist and the state Clemency Board ordered the arrest records of the civil rights activists expunged. Barbara is thankful to have a clean record, but she says the fight isn’t over.

“We still not getting treated like we should. It’s not over,” said James.

Many of the freedom fighters arrested during the St. Augustine Riots have died; among them Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King and the other deceased will also have their records cleared. King was arrested and jailed in St. Augustine on June 11th, 1964. 15 Jewish Rabbis traveled to St. Augustine to pray for King. They too were arrested.

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