With Photography Comes Community

With Photography Comes Community 3Richard Twine was born in St. Augustine on May 11, 1896, the youngest of ten siblings born to David and Harriett Bronson Twine. He grew up in Lincolnville, his family tight-knit. By 1899, the Twine family had lived on King’s Ferry Way for over seventy-five years. Richard Twine and his siblings attended the Catholic school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, which was the first free school for Black students. Started in 1866, this school was established thirteen years before public schools for Whites were commonplace.

Twine completed his schooling at fourteen, first working as a laborer and then as a bellman. In 1916, when he was around twenty years old, Richard Twine left St. Augustine for New York City in search of higher-paying jobs, as did millions of other southern Black Americans at the time. Simultaneously, The Harlem Renaissance was underway making the neighborhood of Harlem a flourishing intellectual and cultural center for Black Americans. Little is known of his life in New York, but it is possible he learned photography and filmmaking skills while there.

Twine returned to St. Augustine sometime between 1921 and 1922, and opened a photography studio at 62 Washington Street. Here, he was situated in the center of Lincolnville’s cultural and commercial activity, and would regularly take spontaneous portraits of individuals, visitors and locals alike. Twine was not merely a studio photographer, however. Instead, he frequently photographed various aspects of everyday life in Lincolnville’s Black community. His studio on Washington Street was open for less than five years, and Twine would never reopen a studio again due to family business pursuits in South Florida. Richard Twine died on September 27, 1974, and is buried with the rest of his family in the San Lorenzo Cemetery. While Twine the man had passed away, his legacy as a community photographer remained.

With Photography Comes Community 4John Jackson, father of Thomas Jackson, (The current board president of the St. Augustine Historical Society), continued the rich tradition of documenting the life of West Augustine and Lincolnville’s Black communities in the late twentieth century. Born in Blackville, (Barnwell County), South Carolina, John was the first child of Thomas J. Jackson, a sharecropper, and Mattie Lou Elam Jackson, a housekeeper. He was the oldest of three siblings. John’s family moved to St. Augustine between 1927 and 1928, where they would remain for the rest of their lives.

When John came of age, he attended Florida Normal and Industrial Institute’s Junior College, graduating with a diploma in 1940. John then continued his educational pursuits and obtained a Bachelors of Science at Florida Normal and Industrial Institute before going on to receive a Masters of Education at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Over the course of three marriages, he fathered a total of ten children. John Jackson initially worked as a school teacher at Webster Elementary, but the low salary of his teaching position led to him using his photography hobby as a secondary source of income.

Much like Twine, Jackson’s photography documented the lives of Black St. Augustinians, chronicling the events of everyday life. In addition to being a photographer, John Jackson was also a musician and played the saxophone with a band based out of Connecticut; and was a program printer for Zion Baptist Church. Later on in his teaching career, he taught at Florida Memorial University as well. Inspiration from his peers and pure enjoyment, however, were what drove Jackson to focus on his photography. His children recovered around thirty-five thousand of his photos, covering a variety of subjects. According to his son Thomas Jackson, John valued family and community, be it Lincolnville, West Augustine, or his college community.

Both Richard Twine and John Jackson utilized photography as a way to present and preserve the history of St. Augustine’s Black community. Their works served to not only document this story, but to uplift and inspire those who were historically put down and denied their own narrative. These men portrayed Lincolnville and West Augustine in their own unique way, contributing to the greater narrative of St. Augustine’s long-standing Black community. Thanks to them, glimpses into the lives of Black St. Augustinians remain preserved to tell their stories.

Written by, Shelby Fox

Edited by, Robert Covert

Sources:

Balaschak, Chris et al. “Through the Camera’s Lens: Photography of R.A. Twine and E.A. Meyer.” El Escribano. 53, (2016): 1-86.

Special thanks to board president Thomas Jackson and his sister Carole Jackson-Curry for contributing vital information on their father the late John L. Jackson.