|African Americans Settle in Fort Mose|
Link to the
Teacher Resource Page
African Americans Settle in Fort Mose
The first African Americans came to Florida in the late 1500s. Most Americans don't realize that African Americans were living in what would become the United States long before the Pilgrims ever landed on Plymouth Rock. The Europeans brought them here from Africa. Most were enslaved in the British Colonies, but there were some free Africans who settled in St. Augustine.
In 1693, the King of Spain wanted to weaken England's rule in the New World. He decreed that slaves who ran away from the British colonies would be free if they converted to Catholicism and declared loyalty to Spain. As this information spread throughout the colonies, many slaves escaped to freedom. Large numbers of these freed slaves helped the Spanish settlers build the Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine's great stone fortress.
Fort Mose as it might have looked.
In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida, Manuel Montiano, decided to set up a separate town for the free Africans. When Fort Mose was established it became the first free black settlement in America. The location for this settlement was carefully considered. The decision was made to build it two miles north of St. Augustine in a salty marsh, so that it could not act as a military outpost for the town. The settlement around the fort was called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose to honor the Spanish king (Gracia Real), the patron saint of Spain (Teresa of AvilÚs), and the Indians of the area who named the place (Mose). It became simply Fort Mose.
Located two miles north of Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine, the fort represented a sanctuary offering land and opportunity for African slaves freed from English owners in Carolina and Georgia. The one hundred African Americans who settled in Fort Mose raised food for themselves and other settlements in St. Augustine. They built churches and shops. The men formed their own militia, or military unit. The captain of this militia, Francisco Menendez, was recognized as chief of Fort Mose.
In 1740, the Fort Mose militia and Spanish soldiers defended St. Augustine and the surrounding area when James Olgethorpe attacked them. Most of Fort Mose was destroyed during the attack.
The battle for Fort Mose.
A second Fort Mose was built, but it never really thrived. After the British gained control of Florida in 1763, the inhabitants of Fort Mose, along with most of the Spanish settlers, fled to Cuba.
Fort Mose was the first free African American settlement in America. Today, it is a National Historical landmark on the Florida Black Heritage Trail. Artifacts found on the site reveal the rich culture and traditions of this historical settlement.