Fort Mose

And the Story of the Man Who Built the First Free Black Settlement in Colonial America
42p. 978-0-81094-056-7.
Gr 4—8—In the 18th century, some Africans escaped slavery in England's southern colonies to find freedom in the Spanish colony of Florida. As a leader of St. Augustine's community, African-born Francisco Menendez helped establish Fort Mose, the first free black community on North American soil. Turner does an excellent job of explaining how the residents of Fort Mose probably blended African, English, and Spanish traditions to create a unique—and uniquely American—culture. Her careful choice of words and images demonstrates that drawing such conclusions about early American history can be difficult when written records are hard to find and sketchy at best. For instance, a 16th-century sketch of a Florida Timucua Indian village is juxtaposed with a 20th-century photo of a West African village. Captions explain that Menendez "would have been familiar" with the design of these African buildings. The text also elaborates on how Fort Mose buildings probably combined Native American and African architectural elements. An afterword explains that Fort Mose no longer stands, but its site is included in Florida's state-park system. Turner describes her research in an author's note. This is a useful addition to libraries with strong African-American history collections, and for teachers and librarians looking for unique stories about colonial America.—Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
Although few historical documents exist about the establishment of Fort Mose, Turner builds a credible account of the life of Francisco Menendez, a slave who became "captain of the black militia at Fort Mose," using threads of historical evidence mixed with plausible speculation. Archival photographs, drawings, and maps enrich the readable and well-documented text. Websites. Bib., glos., ind.

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