In 1693, King Charles II of Spain decreed runaway slaves were to be given sanctuary in his colonies. Black fugitives from the British Colonies made their way south and fought against a British retaliatory attack on St. Augustine. In 1728, the territorial governor abolished the slave market and freed any remaining soldiers who were slaves. Ten years later Governor Montiano established Fort Mose as the first free black settlement in North America and the northernmost outpost protecting the capital of Spanish Florida. The Spanish encouraged enslaved Africans to flee English settlements in the Carolinas, promising them freedom if they converted to Catholicism. Fort Mose was a diverse community made up of people from widely varied backgrounds: Nandingos, Congos, Carabalis, Minas, Gambas, Lecumis, Sambas, Gangas, Araras and Guineans. The fort and village were abandoned in 1763 and for more than 175 years the remains of this first free black town lay forgotten in a salt marsh north of St. Augustine. Although nothing remains of the fort, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994 and is a tangible reminder of the people who risked and often lost their lives in their struggle to attain freedom. A festival is held annually to reenact the journey to freedom. A Florida State Park Visitor Center is being built adjacent to the Fort Mose Historic Park.
Saratoga Blvd., 2 miles north of St. Augustine off U.S. 1 St. Augustine, FL 32084