From Fort Mose to Cuba: First Free Black Community in the United States

The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum is hosting the “Fort Mose: Colonial America’s Black Fortress of Freedom” traveling exhibit from May 2-July 29, 2012. This exhibit from the Florida Museum of Natural History explores the history of Fort Mose, the U.S.’s first legally sanctioned free black community. [Fort Mose, originally known as Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé, is located two miles north of Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine. It is now the Fort Mose Historic State Park.] The museum is located at 170 NW Fifth Avenue in Delray Beach, Florida.

Based on five years of historical and archaeological research at Mose and in Spain, the 500-square-foot exhibit features this archaeological discovery and also explores the African-American colonial experience in the Spanish colonies, from the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the time of the American Revolution. This is a little-known story, and one that offers a powerful alternative image to slavery as the dominant theme in African-American history.

Fort Mose was established in 1738 by escaped slaves from English Carolina who were granted their freedom in Spanish St. Augustine. The men were made members of the Spanish militia, and the fort served as Florida’s first line of defense against the English to the north. These black militias became an important source of defense as early as the 16th century. The Mose militia served in a number of significant battles. The fort was abandoned in 1763, when Spain gave Florida to England, and the entire colony moved to Cuba.

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