The Kingsley Plantation
Zephaniah Kingsley and his wife Anna, an African slave from Senegal, lived at the Kingsley Plantation on St. Johns River. Under the Spanish laws slaves had equal rights, were considered human and treated with dignity. Persons were not born into slavery and compelled to die as slaves. They could purchase their own freedom and that of their families. Families were kept together, they could work or hire out for wages. They were allowed to purchase property and have money, they could testify in court, and be educated. Many marriages were interracial.
So it was that Zephaniah married his slave Anna, freed her and their children and she became an equal partner and manager of their holdings. She purchased land, and purchased her own slaves. Zephaniah trusted her and told everyone she was as capable of managing as he was, in spite of being only 18 years old. The plantation prospered even though Zephaniah was away much of the time. Along the corridor of the St. Johns River, other plantations like theirs prospered, and freed slaves lived in peace.
When the Spanish were routed and talk began about statehood, Zephaniah, who was influential in politics, became an orator and addressed legislators about the dangers of becoming a state under English slave laws. He wrote and distributed pamphlets, but to no avail. Florida become a state and reverted to English laws that governed the rest of the south. Freed slaves were arrested and sold back into slavery. Their property and money were stripped, they were incarcerated, transported and families separated. Many fled to Haiti, which was the only free black province in the world. Florida became the hotbed of White Supremacy in the South. When Florida joined the secessionists, the Kingsleys fled to Haiti. Many escaped to the north and joined the Union ranks to fight for their freedom.
Visitors to the Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville can see the houses and the remains of the slave cottages. Built solidly of tabby blocks, two or three rooms, brick fireplaces and floors, the cottages are arranged in a semi-circle, a common placement in Africa. Such was the influence of Anna and the other slaves. With an audio tour guests can walk from the wharf on the river, past the kitchen house, barns and other stops which explain the layout of the large plantation fields which have reverted back to woodlands.
At the Visitor Center Bookstore I purchased three books. I’m enjoying the biography of Anna Kingsley, a truly remarkable woman. I recommend Kingsley Plantation when you find yourself in Jacksonville, Florida. http:www.nps.gov/foca/learn/historyculture/kp.htm
I’m delighted the bookstore plans to carry Avery’s Battlefield, Avery’s Crossroad, and soon-to-be-released, The Mysterious Life of Jim Limber.