“When the 800 Spanish explorers, under the command of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, made their passage into the new world at St Augustine, among their ranks were 40 to 60 free and enslaved Africans,” Governor Scott observed. “They could not have realized as they made their voyage across the ocean that they would be living in what would become the United States, long before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.”
Florida has a long history of civil rights, independence, and freedom for minorities that includes the founding and settling of Fort Mose in the Middle Passage port of St Augustine in 1738. It was the first free legal black settlement in North America and became home for the descendants of free African mariners, blacksmiths, and militia men who arrived with the Spanish in 1565.
St Augustine offered protection of civil liberties for those living under oppression in the 18th Century British Colonies, either in Carolina or Georgia; if those enslaved would make the trip, convert to Catholicism and declare loyalty to Spain.
The governor said that the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, this month, is a fitting time to share the history of courage and commitment held by those who first arrived on the shores of North America, to dedicate ourselves to a brighter future, and to build on the principles of fairness, justice and equal opportunity.
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