Monday, October 08, 2007

Columbus Day? How about Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose day?

Do they teach this in school?

2007 is the 320th anniversary of the first recorded escaped slaves entering St. Augustine, Florida (eight men, two women and a child).

The Spanish governor of Florida refused to return them to Carolina and hired the men to work on the Castillo de San Marcos for wages. Thus began the long history of St. Augustine as a center of African American freedom.

In time, as more slaves escaped to St. Augustine, the Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose was established, known today as Fort Mose, now one of the newest of Florida's state parks. This unique settlement included a four-sided fort, houses and fields, and was home to the Fort Mose militia, an arms-bearing African American homeland security force.

Fort Mose became the northern defense post for St. Augustine. When British General James Oglethorpe of Georgia attacked St. Augustine in 1740, Fort Mose militia men fought bravely in defense of St. Augustine leading to Oglethorpe's retreat.

So what does this have to do with Dare Not Walk Alone and civil rights protests in the sixties? As JT Johnson of the SCLC, one of those protestors, explains in the movie, St. Augustine stood out in 1964 as a place where African Americans were prepared to make a stand for their rights. It was at the forefront of the anti-segregation movement. The long and rich history of black freedom in the city may well have had something to do with that.

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