Thursday, May 10, 2012

Freed slaves in 1738 America?

A couple of years ago, I was doing research for a new series set in St. Augustine, Florida, and I came across this really cool fact.  We so often hear of the horrors of slavery in America (much of which is true), but have you ever heard that as early in our history as 1738,  a colony of freed slaves existed and thrived?

More than a century before the Emancipation Proclamation, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered the settlement of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, or Fort Mose for short, as a settlement for those fleeing slavery from the English colonies in the Carolinas to the north. Slaves escaping their masters traveled the original underground railroad not to the north, but to the south, to the Spanish colony of Florida where they were given their freedom in exchange for declaring their allegiance to Spain and joining the Catholic church.
Fort Mose was the northern defense of St. Augustine where nearly 100 Africans made their home in freedom. combining African, Indian, Spanish and English cultures. 
Along these lines if you were asked which city in the United States is the oldest? You might say

Jamestown settled in 1607 or perhaps Plymouth in 1620. When in reality the oldest European City of the United States is  St. Augustine, settled by the Spanish in 1565.  But did you know that Africans helped to settle the city, forming 12 % of the population in which 1 in 5 was free? In fact they brought valuable skills from Africa, including Black-smithing, cattle ranching, and carpentry that greatly aided the city's progress.

Another interesting fact is that the first Africans to come to the New World weren't brought here as slaves but aboard the ships of Spanish Conquistadors whereby Africans arrived as artisans, seamen, navigators and adventurers, forever establishing their presence in North America.

Over the next 25 years, Fort Mose and Spanish Saint Augustine became a sanctuary for Africans seeking liberation from the tyranny of English slavery. 

Fort Mose was declared a National Landmark in 1995


  1. Thurs May 10th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Very interesting, and cool. Thanks again for the enjoyable history lesson. These little segments are 'broadening my horizons' so to speak (again, as I was NOT a history-lover in years past).
    Hope all is well.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. Very interesting!!! I never knew that. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Thanks Brenda and Heather for dropping by! I'm glad these little jaunts into history are interesting for you. I've always loved History.. my problem is remembering it! However, I usually remember the weird stuff.. the stuff that stands out like these freed slaves. I mean, who would have thought this happened before the Civil War?

  4. Great post! There were many free Africans in New Netherlands as well and in Virginia. This is something that doesn't get much press. There were blacks who NEVER were slaves in colonial times and owned slaves themselves. CW had a theme on this a few years back.

  5. Wow, Carrie, I didn't know that! It's amazing that they left these fascinating facts out of most history books.. at least the ones I read in college. I also found out recently that we even had black congressmen too before the Civil War.

  6. So cool :) These historical facts, both here and on Colonial Quills, are becoming my favorite to read.

  7. Thanks Sarah! I'm so glad because these do take me some time to write.. and it's nice to know people out there are benefiting!

  8. This was great I learned a lot from it