Thursday, February 17, 2011

[Book Review] FORT MOSE: COLONIAL AMERICA'S BLACK FORTRESS OF FREEDOM by Kathleen A. Deagan and Darcie MacMahon


Darletha reviews FORT MOSE: COLONIAL AMERICA'S BLACK FORTRESS OF FREEDOM, by Kathleen A. Deagan and Darcie MacMahon (University Press of Florida, 1995)

This non-fiction offering details the history and rediscovery of Fort Mose (pronounced mo-SAY), a Spanish colonial fortress in Florida. Originally built by free black soldiers, Fort Mose served as a military stronghold against English invasion. According to researchers, it was the first free black town in the United States, and the only known fort of its kind where black families worked and lived in a thriving community.

While England, Spain, and American Indians were engaged in conflict, African slaves from the Carolinas escaped to St. Augustine, a city located in Florida's Spanish-controlled territory. Runaway slaves were granted freedom after converting to Catholicism and pledging their allegiance to Spain. As more runaways arrived in the early 1700s, Spain established "Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose" as a city for escaped slaves. The fort and surrounding homes were abandoned when Florida became an English colony. With legal and financial support, Kathleen Deagan began research on marshland believed to be the location of Fort Mose in 1986.

I recommend this book for adults and teen readers who enjoy learning little-known facts from history. Short paragraphs and captions are provided throughout this 53-page book; photos of artifacts, artwork, and maps stimulate the eyes. This book provides an enlightening view of blacks in early America who lived independently decades before the Emancipation Proclamation. The history of blacks in America isn't limited to slavery--this book successfully proves that.

Darletha Matthews, South Branch

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