Treasure Coast Education
bounds. He let go the reins, raised his arms to the sky, and
exclaimed: ‘Glory be to God, what are them?’ ”
While the school building and the convent that adjoined it
were solidly built, the church itself was more fragile. By the
1920s, it was infested with termites and had to be torn down.
The new church, a larger wooden building closer to Orange
Avenue, was dedicated on Christmas Eve in 1924.
Some of its design elements reflected the modest means
CHURCH RAN SCHOOL FOR
African-Americans have been members of St. Anastasia
Parish since 1916, when the church documented the
conversion and baptism of Nathan Washington, its first
African-American parishioner. However, Jim Crow laws
came into play in both worship and education.
The old St. Anastasia Church had two benches designated
for “Colored Only.” Frances Brown, who was
prominent in the African-American community and owned
and operated a pharmacy, was a devout Catholic. “It’s said
that he was once asked if it bothered him that he had to sit
there,” says Anne Sinnott, who has researched the church’s
history. “He just smiled and said he always knew he had a
Like public schools, private schools were segregated. To
provide a Catholic education for the area’s African-American
students, a benefactor — possibly a nun, according
to Sinnott — purchased an old theater building on Eighth
Street and converted it into a school.
Blessed Martin School was established in 1940. Two
Dominican nuns from the Adrian, Mich., order were assigned
to teach students through the eighth grade. African-
Americans, mostly middle class, attended the school for
a nominal tuition. Religious instruction was provided, but
students weren’t required to be Catholic.
Among those who attended Blessed Martin was Florida
Highwayman artist James Gibson.
In 1962, Monsignor Michael Beerhalter, spurred by his
belief that schools should be fully integrated, closed the
school and opened St. Anastasia School to African-American
Sister Marie Peter with seventh- and eighth-graders at Blessed Martin
School in 1940