By Derek Boyd Hankerson
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – Freedom Road Production released the first edition of a Digital Magazine, which highlights the rich African American culture and history in Northeast Florida.
This unique heritage is part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor which runs through four states, from Pender County, North Carolina to St. Johns County, Florida. As of May 6, 2013, St. Johns County has been officially included in this corridor, which is one of 49 National Heritage Areas (NHA) and the only NHA that deals with African American history.
As defined by the United States National Park Service, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was designated by Congress in 2006. It is home to one of America’s most distinctive cultures, a tradition first shaped by enslaved West Africans brought to the southern part of what would become the United States.
The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor in Florida includes sites and boundaries in Duval, Nassau and St. John’s County. The Armstrong, Elkton and Spuds area or Sea Community in St. John’s County is one of those surviving Gullah Geechee communities, and the only community in the network that is home to three designated bike trails.
Those bike trails include the Rails to Trail, Sea Island Loop and the East Coast Greenways. These trails were once rail road ties that provided rail transportation to Armstrong, Spuds and Elkton and the East Coast Greenways run from Key West, Florida to Maine and Canada!
Armstrong is one of the oldest African American communities in St. John’s County. It was settled by African (Gullah Geechee) in the early 1900’s who were originally from South Carolina and came to the area to work with various farm families in the turpentine and timber industries.
When asked about the event, Hankerson stated. “He was elated for his great-grandfather was one of the first postmasters in this rural area of St. John’s County in 1915.” My other relatives Murray helped settle Armstrong along with other families. He also commented “I learned and heard to these stories as a kid from my great Aunt and father. It is again nice to see that the stories were and are real and it further deepens my affection for St. John’s County and the Gullah Geechee Corridor.”