A black history Dynamo: “Do you remember the days of slavery”?
Taken in most parts from:
The Kingsley Plantation slave cabins are built of tabby — a material made from cooking oyster shells in a kiln for lime and adding water and sand. The 25 buildings housed 60 to 80 enslaved men, women and children.
Zephaniah Kingsley and his wife Anna Madgigine Jai, who lived on the plantation from 1814 to 1837.
Zephaniah, a successful slave trader, merchant and planter in Spanish Florida, bought Anna, who was born in Senegal, as a slave in Havana, Cuba, in 1806. She was 13 years old. By the time she turned 18, they were married and had three children. She, however, was still a slave and so were the children. (Slavery is determined by the mother’s status.) Zephaniah freed her and their children in 1811.
This family moved to the Kingsley Plantation in 1814, where, still under Spanish rule, Anna was able to become her husband’s business partner, own her own plantation and, strangely enough, own her own slaves.
In the “big house”
The view from the kitchen, which was a separate building, looking toward the main house and waterfront.
The Spanish had a different attitude toward slavery than Americans in the South at the time, who were worried about slave uprisings. While evidence suggests they were no less cruel, the Spanish saw slavery as a temporary status from which you could buy or earn your way free.
Zephaniah wrote widely about his philosophy of slavery and campaigned for a system where people were judged by class not color. He fervently defended slavery (which made him very rich) but also believed society should recognize a class of free blacks, like his wife Anna.
We know little, however, about the attitudes of Anna, who survived the brutal Middle Passage and slave markets. What we have of her are official records – the manumission papers that freed her, records of land grants from Spain and records showing she bought and sold slaves. (Here is the text of Anna Kingsley’s manumission papers and her will, which lists as her property four slaves.)
When Spain lost control of Florida in 1821, the same laws that stripped all liberties from American slaves started to apply to Anna and their now four children. Eventually, the restrictions became intolerable (Zephaniah Kingsley called them “a system of terror”) and in 1832, Anna, two sons and 50 freed slaves moved to Haiti, a free black republic, to found a plantation there.
Two of their daughters, however, stayed in Jacksonville and married wealthy white men.
There’s more to the saga – I won’t spoil your visit by telling you all the eye-opening twists. But if you got the idea that the slaves were happy and well-treated on the Kingsley Plantation, the tour makes it clear that slavery is slavery. There are stories, for example, of children being sold away from their families on Kingsley Plantation and the harsh work regimen required.
Walking around the beautiful plantation grounds thick with live oaks, one spots two or three trees whose girth suggests great age.
You can stand under a live oak that is probably 400 years old and look at those slave cabins, knowing this tree witnessed the whole saga. Did slave children play here in the shade of the same tree under which you stand? Where are their descendants now?
Anna Kingsley: A Free Woman
On the first day of March 1811, in the Spanish province of East Florida, white plantation owner Zephaniah Kingsley put his signature on a document that forever changed the life of a young African woman. The document was a manumission paper which ensured her legal freedom. The young woman, a native of Senegal whom Kingsley had purchased in a slave market in Havana, Cuba, was his eighteen-year-old wife and the mother of his three children. That paper not only marked the beginning of the young woman's freedom in the New World, it was also the beginning of the written record of a remarkable life. Her name was Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley.
A free woman, Anna Kingsley petitioned the Spanish government for land, and land grant records show that in 1813 she was granted title to five acres on the St. Johns River. The property was located across the river from her husband's plantation, Laurel Grove, south of today's Jacksonville. Anna purchased goods and livestock to begin a business--and she purchased slaves. She became one of a significant number of free people of African descent in East Florida. They included farmers, craftsmen, and members of a black militia. Some of these people, like Anna, owned slaves. Although slavery was supported, Spanish race policies encouraged manumission and self-purchase and slavery was not necessarily a permanent condition. The free black population held certain rights and privileges and they had opportunities to take an active part in the economic development of the colony. Anna Kingsley was determined to be an independent businesswoman, selling goods and poultry to neighboring settlers.
Her blossoming business lasted only months. During an effort to wrest East Florida from the Spanish, armed American forces entered the province. Together with a number of rebellious Floridians, they looted and occupied the homesteads of planters and settlers to obtain supplies and set up bases. If these insurgents succeeded and an American system replaced the comparatively liberal Spanish policies, what would become of the freed people and their rights? When the Americans approached, Anna herself lit the fire that consumed her house and property. Then she escaped with her children and slaves on a Spanish gunboat. The insurrection later ended in failure and, as it turned out, Anna's loss was not total. Although a Spanish commandant reported of Anna's property "the flames devoured grain and other things to the value $1,500," the governor rewarded her loyalty with a land grant of 350 acres.
Laurel Grove was also destroyed as a result of the conflict. In 1814 Zephaniah and Anna Kingsley, along with their children and slaves, moved to Fort George Island, a sea island near the mouth of the St. Johns River. On this thousand-acre island with palm-fringed beaches, birds of every description, and ancient Indian mounds of oyster shell, they restored an abandoned plantation. In a fine, comfortable house with views of the tidal marsh and ocean beyond, Anna spent the next twenty-three years of her life.
During the years at Fort George, Zephaniah Kingsley's Florida landholdings increased to include extensive timberland and orange groves, and four major plantations producing sea island cotton, rice, and provisions. He also owned ships that he captained on trading voyages. Kingsley had managers at his various properties to whom he entrusted his business operations when he was away. At the Fort George plantation, Anna took this responsibility and, Kingsley later declared, "could carry on all the affairs of the plantation in my absence as well as I could myself." These "affairs" included overseeing the lives of about sixty men, women, and children who lived on Fort George Island in slavery. The labor of the Kingsley slaves provided the wealth of the Kingsley family.
Conditions for all of Florida's people of color, free and enslaved, changed drastically when Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821. An influential planter, Zephaniah Kingsley was appointed to the 1823 territorial legislative council. He tried to persuade lawmakers to adopt policies similar to those of the Spanish, providing for liberal manumission and rights for the free black population. He published his opinions in A Treatise on the Patriarchal, or Co-operative System of Society As It Exists in Some Governments, and Colonies in America, and in the United States, Under the Name of Slavery, with Its Necessity and Advantages in 1828. But Kingsley's arguments did not convince Florida legislators. Legislative councils used fear of slave rebellion to justify policies that were increasingly oppressive. Legislation of the 1820s and 1830s reflects racial discrimination that blurred the distinction between freeman and slave until there was virtually no difference.
The cession agreement between the U.S. and Spain was supposed to protect the status of free people of color living in Florida in 1821, but the Kingsleys had reason to be concerned. Parish records reveal that a fourth child was born to Zephaniah and Anna in 1824. Their new son was subject to the harsh enactments that Zephaniah Kingsley called "a system of terror." Even Anna and her older son and two daughters were not necessarily secure as racism increased. Anna decided to leave Florida and go to Haiti. Slave revolution had made Haiti the first independent black republic of the New World, the "Island of Liberty" as Kingsley called it. Anna and her sons intended to start a plantation on the northern coast of the island. Their work force would consist of more than fifty of their former Florida slaves, freed to work as indentured servants to comply with Haitian law which prohibited slavery. In 1837 Anna Kingsley left Florida and sailed to "Mayorasgo De Koka," her new home in Haiti.
Zephaniah Kingsley described Mayorasgo De Koka as "heavily timbered with mahogany all round; well watered; flowers so beautiful; fruits in abundance, so delicious that you could not refrain from stopping to eat..." Roads and bridges were built and the Kingsleys planned a school for the community, but they did not live happily ever after in their tropical colony. In 1843, in his seventy-eighth year, Zephaniah Kingsley died.
With an estate worth a fortune at stake, some of Zephaniah Kingsley's white relatives contested his will and sought to deny Anna and his children their inheritance. After much dispute, courts upheld the rights of the black heirs, but the family suffered another loss. Anna's older son, George, was returning to Florida in 1846 to defend land interests, when the ship in which he was traveling was lost at sea. Her younger son, John Maxwell Kingsley, took over management of Mayorasgo De Koka and Anna Kingsley, for unknown reasons, returned to Florida. She could not return to Fort George Island--that plantation had been sold years before. She settled near her daughters who had married and stayed in Florida. Once more Anna lived on the St. Johns River, this time in a young town called Jacksonville.
When the Civil War divided the country, Anna and her daughters' families supported the Union. With Florida's secession and hostility from Confederates intensifying, Anna had to leave her home again. In 1862, she traveled with relatives to New York. They returned to Florida later that year, but lived in Union-occupied Fernandina until the end of the conflict. In 1865 Anna Kingsley returned to the St. Johns River for the final time.
Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley died in 1870. No intimate letters, diaries, or other personal reflections on her life are known to exist. No portrait or photograph of any kind remains of her. Even her grave is unmarked. Her story, however, endures. In the legal petitions and official correspondence, probate and property records, the details of her life emerge. And on Fort George Island, near the mouth of the St. Johns River, the house where she lived for twenty-three years still stands.
Anna's Manumission and Will
1 March 1811
St. Augustine, Florida
In the name of Almighty God, Amen: Let it be known that I, Zephaniah Kingsley, resident and citizen of the St. Johns River region of this province hereby state: That I have as my slave a black woman named Anna, about 18 years old, who is the same native African woman that I purchased in Havana...
I recognize [her children] as my own; this circumstance, and as well considering the good qualities of the already referred to black woman, and the truth and fidelity with which she has served me, impels me to give her freedom graciously and without other interest, the same accorded to the aforementioned three mulatto children whose names and ages are for the record: George, three years and nine months old; Martha, twenty months old; and Mary, a month old...I remove my rights of property, possession, utility, dominion, and all other royal and personal deeds which I have possessed over these four slaves. And I cede, renounce and transfer [my rights] to each of them so that from today forward, they can negotiate, sign contracts, buy, sell, appear legally in court, give depositions, testimonials, powers of attorney, codicils, and do any and all things which they can do as free people who are of free will without any burden...
Excerpted from document in Escrituras, Reel 172, Bundle 378, 17A-B, 18A-B, of the East Florida Papers, Library of Congress (microfilm copy at P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, University of Florida). Document is in Spanish; this version was translated by Caleb Finnegan.
Know all men by these presents, that I Anna M. Kingsley of the County of Duval and State of Florida being of sound mind and memory but feeble in strength, do hereby, and by these presents constitute and appoint my daughter Martha B. Baxter my true and lawful attorney in fact and trustee...And I have and hereby place in her hand the full and undisturbed possession of the following amount of money and property, viz: three thousand dollars in cash and four Negro slaves viz: Polly a woman aged about 17 years, Joe a boy about 14, Elizabeth a girl about 12, and Julia a girl about 9 years. Also all my right title and interest in and to a certain claim I have as one of the Legatees of and under the will of Zephaniah Kingsley late of East Florida in which he the said Kingsley bequeaths and devises to me, one twelfth part of an amount or sum of money that shall be allowed his heirs by the government of the United States for losses sustained by him during the War of 1812 and 1813 by the operations of the American Army, the principal having been allowed, the interest money is now pending before the Congress of the U.S....Given under my hand and seal this 24th day of April, one thousand eight hundred and sixty.
Anna M. Kingsley
Excerpt from trust/will of Anna Kingsley. Typescript of complete document in NPS files at Kingsley Plantation (made from Duval County probate file 1210-D).
Rosewood Massacre (1923)
On January 1, 1923 a massacre was carried out in the small, predominantly black town of Rosewood in Central Florida. The massacre was instigated by the rumor that a white woman, Fanny Taylor, had been sexually assaulted by a black man in her home in a nearby community. A group of white men, believing this rapist to be a recently escaped convict named Jesse Hunter who was hiding in Rosewood, assembled to capture this man.
Prior this event a series of incidents had stirred racial tensions within Rosewood. During the previous winter of 1922 a white school teacher from Perry had been murdered and on New Years Eve of 1922 there was a Ku Klux Klan rally held in Gainesville, located not far away from Rosewood.
In response to the allegation by Taylor, white men began to search for Jesse Hunter, Aaron Carrier and Sam Carter who were believed to be accomplices. Carrier was captured and incarcerated while Carter was lynched. The white mob suspected Aaron's cousin, Sylvester Carrier, a Rosewood resident of harboring the fugitive, Jesse Hunter.
On January 4, 1923 a group of 20 to 30 white men approached the Carrier home and shot the family dog. When Sylvester's mother Sarah came to the porch to confront the mob they shot and killed her. Sylvester defended his home, killing two men and wounding four in the ensuing battle before he too was killed. The remaining survivors fled to the swamps for refuge where many of the African American residents of Rosewood had already retreated, hoping to avoid the rising conflict and increasing racial tension.
The next day the white mob burned the Carrier home before joining with a group of 200 men from surrounding towns who had heard erroneously that a black man had killed two white men. As night descended the mob attacked the town, slaughtering animals and burning buildings. An official report claims six blacks killed along with two whites. Other accounts suggest a larger total. At the end of the carnage only two buildings remained standing, a house and the town general store.
Many of the black residents of Rosewood who fled to the swamps were evacuated on January 6 by two local train conductors, John and William Bryce. Many others were hidden by John Wright, the owner of the general store. Other black residents of Rosewood fled to Gainesville and to northern cities. As a consequence of the massacre, Rosewood became deserted.
The initial report of the Rosewood incident presented less than a month after the massacre claimed there was insufficient evidence for prosecution. Thus no one was charged with any of the Rosewood murders. In 1994, however, as the result of new evidence and renewed interest in the event, the Florida Legislature passed the Rosewood Bill which entitled the nine survivors to $150,000 dollars each in compensation.
"Documented History of the Incident Which Occurred at Rosewood, Florida, In January 1923." The Rosewood Report History, December 22, 1993. http://www.displaysforschools.com/rosewoodrp.html; "Marking Rosewood History." The Real Rosewood. 2007. http://www.rosewoodflorida.com/.
University of Washington
- See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/rosewood-massacre-1923#sthash.dIAniDFc.dpuf
A black history Dynamo: “Do you remember the days of slavery”?