Sunday, April 25, 2010

History Channel missed the boat on "America: The Story of Us"

This is not particularly Civil War related, but it is of historical interest and definitely affects the national and world perception of Florida history. For all of its promotion and special effects and star commentary, I was extremely disappointed with the first night of  The History Channel's new series, "America: The Story of Us."

Let me tell you why. First, as most Floridians know and it seems like few television producers or national historians know, the first permanent European settlement in what is now the continental United States was at St. Augustine. In 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles led Spanish settlers and soldiers ashore to establish a fort at a Timucuan Indian village on a tributary of Matanzas Bay. The toe-hold he established in the New World survives and prospers to this day.

Not only is St. Augustine the oldest continually occupied city in the United States, it boasts an impressive array of other firsts. It is the site of the first stone house in the United States, the first public park in the United States, the first settlement for free African Americans in the United States and also boasts the oldest masonry fort in the United States, the site of the oldest lighthouse in the United States, the site of the oldest church in the United States, the oldest known public well in the United States and a host of other historic sites and points of interest.

Sadly, the producers of "America: The Story of Us" did not seem to consider the Spanish who settled in Florida to be real people. Their struggles and successful establishment of the first city in the continental United States was completely ignored. While I certainly respect and admire the struggles and successes of the settlers who founded Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth in 1620, don't the early Spanish settlers and soldiers who founded St. Augustine in 1565 deserve at least a mention? After all, they had made homes for themselves in the New World fifty-five full years before the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower.

Surely Florida is part of America?

Perhaps the producers and writers who did this show for The History Channel should have taken a history class or two of their own?

To learn more about beautiful and historic old St. Augustine, please visit


Suwanee Refugee said...

I can't seem to recall where I heard it, but I think that the current Panama City or Pensacola was the first settled city, but a natural disaster was its demise. Then St. Augustine was founded.

Dale said...

This is true. Tristan de Luna established a settlement somewhere in the Pensacola Bay vicinity in 1559, but it failed due to a hurricane, starvation and general strangeness on the part of the colonists. A settlement was also attempted earlier on the Georgia coast but also failed. St. Augustine, however, stuck and is still around 445 years later!