More than 250 years ago, African people risked their lives to escape from slavery on plantations in English Carolina. Word had spread that Spanish colonists to the south promised sanctuary to all runaways who made their way to Florida and converted to Catholicism. In 1738, when more than 100 African fugitives had arrived in St. Augustine, the Spaniards established the fort and town of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first legally sanctioned free black community in what is now the United States.
Five years of historical and archaeological research at Mose and in Spain revealed details about the people who lived at the fort, and physical evidence of the community and its daily life. Men, women and children lived at Mose and farmed the nearby fields. Men were members of the Spanish militia and served in a number of significant battles. Data suggest that life was filled attending to the basic necessities, yet it would have been very rich in other ways. This was a multicultural community of people born in Africa and the Americas. Their legacy is one of tremendous daring and effort that made important contributions to our colonial past. The fort was abandoned in 1763 when Spain gave Florida to England, and the entire colony moved to Cuba.
The exhibit features the history of Fort Mose but also explores the African-American colonial experience in the Spanish colonies. This little-known story offers a powerful alternative image to slavery as the dominant theme in African-American history.
For more information contact Tom Kyne, Traveling Exhibits Coordinator, 352-273-2077 firstname.lastname@example.org