Black History Comes Alive
Black History Comes Alive
Black History Comes Alive In St. Augustine
Among St. Augustine’s most fascinating locales is Fort Mose Historic State Park. It is one of the original sites on the southern route of three Underground Railroads. In fact, Fort Mose was the first, legally-sanctioned free African settlement in what is now known as the United States.
For two and a half decades, Fort Mose and Spanish Saint Augustine became a sanctuary for Africans seeking freedom from the oppression and slavery in English Colonies in the Carolinas. Those pursuing independence were recognized as free and taken into the Spanish militia and required to convert to Catholicism and practice the Catholic faith (This This would later be what saved them from being returned to the English.) They were then placed into service at the Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé military fort just north of the city, now simply referred to as Fort Mose.
In the 1730s, a black Spanish community formed in Fort Mose and founded the town of the same name. Two Fort Mose sites existed in the 18th century; one occupied by the Spanish between 1738 and 1740, and another occupied between 1752 and 1763. The most complete site that exists today is the location of the second Fort Mose.
In 1759 Fort Mose had 22 dwellings, which archeologists believe were located around the main fort. The second Fort Mose also had a large wooden parish church with a thatched roof. Although there are no remains of the earth and wooden structures of the first Fort Mose, visitors can view the land where the original settlement stood and learn more about the Fort’s history.
In the 1970s, excavations at the site of the second Fort Mose uncovered a moat, a log stockade, and earthwork fort walls. Evidence revealed that the structures date back to the Spanish occupation.
Today, re-enactors interpret the lives of Spanish Florida’s freed men and women. The visitor center provides information about the history of the site and its museum exhibit highlights artifacts recovered from the Spanish colonial period.
Promoting the park and ensuring the story of its history is remembered for generations to come falls on the Fort Mose Historical Society. The group formed in the 1990’s and has been instrumental in the developing and implementing a number of projects and in planning events and outreach programs. The group hosts a number of fundraising missions designed to keep the park viable. The Historical Society is dedicated to assuring that the story of its African inhabitants is remembered and its history preserved for future generations.
The Fort was recognized as a National Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. In 2009 the National Park Service named Fort Mose a precursor site on the National Underground Railroad Network.
Fort Mose Historic State Park- 15 Fort Mose Trail, St. Augustine, 904-823-2232.
Visitor Center Museum Open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesday & Wednesday.
The park is open 365 days a year from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.
Battle of Bloody Mose pic- John Alison
Park Pictures: Fort Mose Historic State Park
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