Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kingsley Plantation - Fort George Island, Florida

Kingsley Plantation House
This is part two of a Black History Month series on key African American heritage sites in Florida

 Hidden on coastal island almost within site of the skyline of Jacksonville, the historic Kingsley Plantation holds tremendous significance in American History.

With a main house that was built using slave labor in 1798, the plantation was established during the days of when Florida was still a Spanish colony. In 1814 it was purchased by Zephania Kingsley and his African wife, Anta (Anna) Madgigine Jai. He had first come to Florida in 1803 and purchased her as a slave in Cuba in 1806. The two fell in love, however, and Kingsley set Anta and her children free in 1811. They were married and Zephaniah Kingsley, even though he continued to own slaves, became a major proponent for the rights of free blacks in America.

Florida was transferred from Spain to the United States in 1821 and the Kingsleys found themselves facing major changes in the laws affecting African Americans. Restriction after restriction was handed down and Zephaniah railed against these and debated lawmakers on the subject of the rights of free blacks. He also wrote a major treatise on the subject that was read and discussed both North and South.

By 1830, however, Kingsley realized he was fighting a lost cause. Deciding that there was no immediate hope of changing laws in the United States, he freed 50 of his slaves and took them to Haiti where he established a free settlement. He died in 1843, but Anta (Anna) lived until the 1870s and eventually returned to Florida to live out her days.

To learn more about their fascinating home and its many unique features, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/kingsley.

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