Jacksonville has a diverse and rich cultural history, and our city’s proud heritage makes us what we are today. The First Coast has been the stage for more than 6,000 years of human history, and our region’s European roots stretch back more than 450 years. When French Captain Jean Ribault and the Huguenots landed on our shores in 1562, meeting the native Timucua tribe and claiming land for France, they erected the Ribault Monument along the St. Johns River, a testament to their journey that still stands today.
The Huguenots came to settle here on the banks of the river, which they named the River of May. In the years that followed, they toiled and flourished in a land where they could freely live out their faith, and began building Fort Caroline in 1564 – years before the colonies of Jamestown, Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were established.
This year, our city commemorates the lives and legacies of the brave men and women of Fort Caroline, as well as the trails they blazed in search of religious freedom in the New World. This is part of our story, and the foundation for our unique history as a community. As we reflect on those who endeavored before us, I hope you’ll join me in honoring more than four centuries of French history right here in Jacksonville, Florida.