Fort Mose:
Colonial America's Black Fortress of Freedom

Kathleen Deagan and Darcie MacMahon


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"An excellent publication. . . . In clear and simple language the authors show how the people of Fort Mose were instrumental in shaping Spanish international policy on slavery and providing inspiration for slaves throughout the New World. . . . [This] work demonstrates the many types of resistance to slavery that occurred long before its abolition."--Mark R. Barnes, Senior Archaeologist, National Park Service

"Deagan and MacMahon skillfully weave together the historical context of African American settlement in Spanish Florida, the discovery and investigation of the archaeological remains of Fort Mose, the modern political context of the site, and the research and interpretation of evidence from many fields in the sciences and humanities. This is archaeology as it should be--a broad inquiry into the past that lets us reassess and improve our understanding of ourselves and others."--James J. Miller, State Archaeologist of Florida



More than 250 years ago, African-born slaves risked their lives to escape from slavery on English plantations in South Carolina. Hearing that the Spaniards in Florida promised religious sanctuary, the courageous Africans and their Indian allies created the first American underground railroad, a century before the northbound railroad of the Civil War. Battling slave catchers and dangerous swamps, the fugitives made their way south to St. Augustine, Florida, where the Spanish freed them in return for service to the Spanish king and conversion to Catholicism.
In 1738, after more than 100 African fugitives had arrived, the Spanish established the fort and town of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first legally sanctioned free black community in what is now the United States.
Because of a rise in sea level and changes in the surrounding creeks and marshes, the original fort has long been submerged. The second fort, constructed in 1752 and occupied for twelve years, was destroyed in 1812. Today the site of Fort Mose is a major point on the Florida Black Heritage Trail and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
This book tells the story of Fort Mose and the people who lived there. It challenges the notion of the American black colonial experience as only that of slavery, offering instead a richer and more balanced view of the black experience in the Spanish colonies from the arrival of Columbus to the American Revolution.


Kathleen Deagan is curator of historical archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Darcie MacMahon is exhibit coordinator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, and assistant curator and exhibit coordinator of the Fort Mose traveling exhibit.
Published in cooperation with the Florida Museum of Natural History

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Awards
Charlton Tebeau Book Award (Florida Historical Society) - 1994
AASLH Annual Award of Merit - 1994

"a unique and attractive book" "The story of Fort Mose and its free black inhabitants is important because of the challenge it presents to the sidespread notion that the American black colonial experience was one of slavery only."
--Journal of Southwest Georgia History

"an excellently researched and presented book." "This book should appeal to a wide audience: from lay people to professionals, elementary school through college and university." "Deagan and MacMahon have done a splendid job of bringing a little known story of African American struggle, courage and success to the public."
--Public Archaeology Review

"A time-tested booklet on a very important chapter of the U.S. national story."
--CLAHR

"A well-researched, fascinating-to-read overview of the African American experience in the Spanish colonies."
--Footsteps Magazine

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