Two miles north of the Castillo de San Marcos, the site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in the United States commemorates the lives of determined slaves who risked their lives for liberty.
In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered the Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose (Fort Mose) for slaves fleeing from the English colonies in Georgia and the Carolinas.
The Spanish established the fort for two reasons: To cripple the colonial plantation system and to provide a first line of defense against attack from the north.
In exchange for their freedom, the slaves had to agree to three conditions: 1) They had to accept the Catholic religion, 2) They had to swear allegiance to the Spanish King and 3) They had to join the Spanish militia.
The colony lasted for 25 years until the Spanish left Florida in 1763.
Though there are no remains of the earth and wooden structures that made up the community, the site is designated as a National Historic Landmark for its significance in U.S. history.
British soldier re-enactment
Gunpowder explodes as Jim Morecraft fires his musket while portraying a British soldier in Oglethorpe’s Regiment during the Battle of Bloody Mose re-enactment at Fort Mose Historic State Park.
Today, visitors can glimpse life as it was in the camp at the newly constructed museum and explore the grounds where exhibits are on display. Throughout the year, the Florida State Park Service and the Florida Humanities Council sponsor living history events onsite. In the living history re-enactments, volunteers dress in period costume and demonstrate the events and daily activities of those 38 men and their families who took up residence at the fort.
The visitor center and museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Monday. Admission is $2. Children 5 and under are free. For information, call 904-823-2232 or go to floridastateparks.org/FortMose.