Black History Month: Fort Caroline & Ribault High School

  • by Catherine Tortorici
  • March 1, 2022

Similarly to the 2016 Obama administration, we would like to take a moment and recognize Jean Ribault Senior High School as we approach the start of the March Madness season. Ribault High (as it has come to be known) opened its doors in November 1957 after briefly operating under the name Lake Forest Junior-Senior High School. Since then, Ribault has grown into a staple in the Northside community that boasts an Early College and historic basketball program, which earned them a White House invitation following their Dick’s Sporting Goods National Championship win. 

Ribault’s Girls Basketball Team at Madison Square Garden | Source: US Today

Jean Ribault (1520-1565), the gentleman that  the school is named in honor of, was a French naval officer/navigator, who set up a port on a South Carolina inlet and a fort in Jacksonville, FL. Port Royal Sound and Fort Caroline are the present-day iterations of his voyage, and Fort Caroline’s history is filled with tales of French-Native conflict.

Jean Ribault Settling Florida | Source: Florida History Network

 Located at the mouth of the St. Johns River, Fort Caroline’s establishment serves as a metaphoric representation of Ribault’s basketball program because both of their journeys to significance required them to overcome competitive forces. However, in the case of the school, this road ended in distinct success, while the French voyager’s path ultimately resulted in him fleeing due to war in the land. 


The French and Timucuan Indians | Source: The Jaxson Mag


Over the past several decades, both the boys and girls basketball programs at Ribault High have brought the community together in celebration of local talent, especially when playing rivals such as Raines, Jackson, and First Coast. In addition to this, Ribault has gathered a significant number of rings/trophies under the leadership of outstanding coaches, such as Alfred Austin and Shelia Seymore-Pennick. 

 Coach Alfred Austin | Source: FHSAA

After completing 25 seasons as a head coach, Austin ended his career with a 695-56- making him the all-time winningest coach in Florida history, and Shelia carried on his legacy by winning 12 district championships, 4 state championships, and the previously mentioned National Championship (Madison Square Garden). 



Ribault Senior High School | Source: Florida Times-Union

Thanks to the contributions of coaches like them and the support of the community, Jacksonville has become a city with a vault of history that includes athletes that have participated  in the NBA, NFL, MLB, WNBA, Olympics, overseas, and more. A history that we’ve had the pleasure of providing insights on throughout the month of February. Happy  Bicentennial Year everyone! Please feel free to review any of the previous articles and make sure to spread the word about our city’s birthday. 


Article by Wilshem Pennick


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