African Presence in Florida

This is the 4th of our Wednesday series that highlights historic Middle Passage and/or UNESCO Site of Memory markers that have been installed and those locations where a remembrance ceremony was held since MPCPMP incorporated 9 years ago. MPCMP is/was involved in the planning for the installation of most of these markers (indicated by an * next to the state name), and other organizations are/were responsible for some.

Florida*

Florida has two coasts – Atlantic and Gulf – where two of the earliest European settlements, Pensacola (1559) and St. Augustine (1565), were established by the Spanish. Africans were on board with the arrival of Ponce de Leon (1513) who claimed the entire continent for Spain. Archeological and archival research provide evidence that the earliest, sustained presence of Africans in the U.S., both free and enslaved, occurred in this state. The first recorded birth of a child of African descent was 1606 in St. Augustine. The Paris Peace Treaty of 1783 that ended the Revolutionary War and granted U.S. independence also returned control of Florida to Spain. No longer under any legal or tariff restrictions, great numbers of captives were imported here directly from Africa to work on rice and indigo plantations. During the late 1700s, these people comprised the predominant work force in East Florida. In the early 19th century, particularly after the 1808 U.S. constitutional ban on the importation of Africans, Florida became a human trade and smuggling region on the St. Johns and St. Marys Rivers.

To date, Middle Passage and/or UNESCO Site of Memory markers have been installed at St. Augustine* (Mission Nombre de Dios), Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach* (Fernandina Plaza Historic State Park), Key West (African American Cemetery at Higgs Beach), and Mosquito Inlet* (Greek Memorial, New Smyrna). A marker has been approved for Pensacola, the installation date TBA.

To read more about Florida and slavery and to find additional resources, please follow these links: https://floridahumanities.org/floridas-culture-of-slavery/https://aaregistry.org/story/st-augustine-florida-founded/https://www.tampabay.com/…/before-1619-africans-and-the-ea…/

Middle Passage marker installed in 2015 at the Mission Nombre de Dios, St. Augustine, FL.
Marker installed March 2020 at Amelia Island/Fernandina, FL.
Remembrance ceremony, Fort San Carlos Park, Fernandina, FL
Marker at the African American Cemetery at Higgs Beach, Key West, FL.
Mosquito Inlet beach where enslaved Africans and captive Europeans from the Mediterranean arrived to work on Andrew Turnbull’s plantation in New Smyrna.
MPCPMP Executive Director Ann Chinn speaks at remembrance ceremony at New Smyrna memorial, 2013 
Closeup of Mosquito Inlet memorial at Greek Memorial, New Smyrna, FL, reflecting a shared history of place.
National Native American Storyteller/ Flutist Marcia Johnston (Buffalo Woman) at remembrance ceremony in Pensacola, Florida, April 20, 2013

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