Historic Lincolnville is home to St. Benedict the Moor Church, the first African American parish of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, named for a Sicilian friar known for service to his community despite illiteracy and humble means.

In 1871, the St. Joseph Society of the Sacred Heart vowed to serve and minister to newly freed slaves. In 1892, Josephite Bishop John Moore acquired land in St. Augustine that once was part of the Yallaha plantation orange grove and began to develop the site for a church and school. The first building erected in 1898 is now the oldest surviving brick schoolhouse in St. Augustine and one of the first schools for Black children in Florida.  Construction of the parish church began in 1909; the church was completed and consecrated in 1911. The rectory was completed in 1915.

The buildings have seen many important moments in Civil Rights history. In 1916, Sisters Mary Thomasine, Mary Scholastica, and Mary Beningus were arrested under Jim Crow laws that prohibited white teachers from teaching Black students. The three sisters were quickly acquitted when a judge ruled the law did not apply to private schools.

In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. used the rectory to plan marches and demonstrations to support the civil rights movement that played a significant part in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The school closed soon after, partly because of desegregation legislation.

The school building, currently undergoing significant restoration, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and, along with the Church and Rectory, may be seen today at 82 Martin Luther King Avenue.

St. Benedict the Moor Church

Photo & Content: St. Johns Cultural Council