Freedomland for Slaves

fortmoseFort Mose has been labeled as the very first black settlement in America. The area was formed in 1726 and was nestled two miles north of St. Augustine, Fla. By 1738, Fort Mose consisted of 38 freed escaped black slaves, most with their families.

The Fort was protected by armed black men, the black militia, who were led by Francisco Menendez. Menendez was a 17th century Mandinga from West Africa and an escaped slave himself. He had been captured in South Carolina until 1715.

Fort Mose was known as the first “promised land” for slaves. Since 1687, slaves who escaped to Florida simply had to profess that they believed in Roman Catholicism for freedom.

The life of a slave on Fort Mose served as a precursor to the Stone Rebellion in 1739. Twenty slaves sparked the revolt by killing two store clerks. Sixty people were killed in action, including 20 whites. The next revolt would take place at Ashley River. The bloody battle ended with the capturing and hanging of fifty slaves.

As word spread about Fort Mose and the freedom of the black militia, the English intervened and attacked the settlement in 1740. Though the Native Americans had joined forces with Mose, they overthrew the black army of men and Fort Mose was destroyed. Francisco Menendez was captured and sent back to slavery.

It was not until 1752 when the Spanish rebuilt Fort Mose that it was re-opened. A newly escaped Menendez took his position as captain, and once again, led the new settlers of Fort Mose. In 1763, Menendez loaded 48 freed slaves on the Our Lady of Sorrows ship headed to Cuba, where they settled in a town near Havana.

The settlement known as Fort Mose is now a historical landmark.

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