"An original and important contribution to the scholarship of Florida, the British Empire, the Caribbean, Africa, slavery and emancipation, the colonial United States, and the Atlantic world. Kingsley was a figure who moved through many worlds, and this meticulously researched work follows his many trails. It is the definitive biography on this fascinating character."--Jane Landers, author of Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions
"The story is fascinating and shows the interconnections of the Atlantic world in all its complexities. Kingsley’s philosophy challenged the usual views of slavery, race relations, and the murky ground between freedom and dependency."--Paul E. Lovejoy, author of Transformations in Slavery
A controversial figure for his views on manumission and his unorthodox marital arrangements, Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. (1765-1843) is mostly known today for his Fort George Island plantation in Duval County, Florida, now a National Park Service site, and for his 1828 pamphlet, A Treatise on the Patriarchal System of Society, that advocated just and humane treatment of slaves, liberal emancipation policies, and granting rights to free persons of color. Paradoxically, his fortune came from the purchase, sale, and labor of enslaved Africans.
In this penetrating biography, Daniel Schafer vividly chronicles Kingsley’s evolving thoughts on race and slavery, exploring his business practices and his private life. Kingsley fathered children by several enslaved women, then freed and lived with them in a unique mixed-race family. One of the women--the only one he acknowledged as his "wife" though they were never formally married--was Anta Madgigine Ndiaye (Anna Kingsley), a member of the Senegalese royal family, who was captured in a slave raid and purchased by Kingsley in Havana, Cuba.
A ship captain, Caribbean merchant, and Atlantic slave trader during the perilous years of international warfare following the French Revolution, Kingsley sought protection under neutral flags, changing allegiance from Britain to the United States, Denmark, and Spain. Later, when the American acquisition of Florida brought rigid race and slavery policies that endangered the freedom of Kingsley’s mixed-race family, he responded by moving his "wives" and children to a vast agricultural settlement in Haiti that he established for free persons of color.
Kingsley’s assertion that color should not be a "badge of degradation" made him unusual in the early Republic. His unique life is revealed in this fascinating reminder of the deep connections between Europe, the Caribbean, and the young United States.
Daniel L. Schafer, Professor of History Emeritus and University Distinguished Professor at the University of North Florida, is the author of several books, including Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, William Bartram and the Ghost Plantations of British East Florida and Thunder on the River: The Civil War in Northeast Florida.
No Sample Chapter AvailableAwards
Florida Book Award for Florida Nonfiction, Silver - 2013
Charlton Tebeau Book Award (Florida Historical Society) - 2014
Stetson Kennedy Award - 2014
This well-researched and well-written work makes a significant contribution to the study of slavery in early Florida.
Kingsley is indeed a puzzling figure, and a fascinating one. He was an adventurer, slave trader, businessman and gimcrack social philosopher....Shafer brings this forgotten man to life.
--The Wall Street Journal
Brings to life the man Kingsley with all his flaws, contradictions and genius for success, placing him in the context of the turbulent times known as the 'Age of Revolution' that intermittently convulsed both sides of the Atlantic.
The first detailed study of Zephaniah Kingsley, a controversial individual who amassed a fortune in the Atlantic slave trade yet emancipated many of the slaves he owned.
Schafer weaves the tale of Kingsley’s life in painstaking detail based on thorough knowledge of primary and secondary sources.
--Going Public: The Dirt on Public Archaeology
A major contribution not only to Florida history, but also to the history of the Atlantic World.
This extensively researched book captures [Zephaniah Kingsley Jr.’s] life and times very effectively…an excellent biography.
Illustrates just how complex, interconnected and surprising the eighteenth-century Atlantic world could be for the men and women who circulated around it and helped shape it. . . . Schafer brings [Kingsley] to life in this richly textured and well-written biography.
--Slavery and Abolition
A deeply researched biography of a truly exceptional but complex man whose life both reflected and helped to redefine the changing Atlantic worlds that he occupied.