In celebration of Black History Month throughout the month of February, we will like to talk about Fort Mose, the first legally sanctioned black settlement in America.
The development of colonial North America would not be complete without Fort Mose, a settlement in the Colony of Carolina, making it the first ever free black settlement for African Americans.
Established by Manuel Montiano, the governor of the colony of Spain, Florida, in 1738, Fort Mose is located in St. Augustine. Although it was a settlement set up by the Spanish, it’s growth and development was facilitated by Africans, both enslaved and free.
The enslaved Africans found themselves in St. Augustine as they fled the plantations of the Carolinas, the slave catchers as well as dangerous swamps to end up in Florida, where they were freed by the Spanish in exchange for service of the king as well as conversion to Catholicism.
Historical records show that by 1795, Mose consisted of 22 palm-thatch huts, which housed 37 men, 15 women, seven boys, and eight girls. There was a church, farms and men would stand guard at the fort or patrol the frontier. Although the freed Africans married each other, they also married enslaved African in St. Augustine and Indians.
The Spanish abandoned the fort in 1763 when the British took over and leveled it in 1812.
The site was forgotten until 1968 when there was a concerted effort to unveil the site, marking its significant place in history.
Thanks to archeology, bits, and pieces of the fort and the existence of the people have been captured over time. Artifacts, household items and even food items were found in the area, which has now become a tourist attraction.
It is part of the Florida’s Heritage Trail.