Fort Mose: North America’s First Free Black Community

“In February of 1739, Florida Governor Manuel de Montana built a coastal fortress a few miles north of St. Augustine. He invited free blacks to populate it; Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, more commonly known as Fort Mose, was the first free black community in North America.

Fort Mose

Spain did its best to make Fort Mose attractive to Africans. Seed and tools for farming were provided, and food was sent in until the first crops could be raised. There was a priest assigned to the fort for religious instruction. Cannons were placed on the ramparts. Muskets were issued to men who wanted them, and most did. The only obligation placed on the Africans living there was to help defend Florida against invaders.

Word about Fort Mose spread quickly to slaves in the southern British colonies. The colonists and the English army personnel stationed in the southern regions of the American colonies decided they only had one option — to invade Florida, destroy St. Augustine and Fort Mose, and, hopefully, drive out the Spanish colonists forever. All they needed was an excuse.”

Source: Our Land Before We Die: The Proud Story of the Seminole Negro by Jeff Guinn; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002 p. 19

Photo Credit: Eric Gorski

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