National Underground Railroad extended to Florida

Historic City News readers are patriotically invited to attend the open meeting of the Saint Augustine Tea Party on Tuesday, January 22nd at 6:30 p.m., at the Village Inn located at 900 North Ponce de Leon Boulevard, St. Augustine. The returning special guest will be author, film director and historian, Derek Boyd Hankerson, M.A.

“Florida’s Underground Railroad: Southern Route to Freedom”

Knowledge of a Southern Route to Freedom isn’t new. As early as 1587, Spain’s La Florida was recorded to be “a safe haven for freedom seekers resisting enslavement”. The Underground Railroad ran South from South Carolina and Georgia to St. Augustine, Florida.

In 1738, Fort Mose became the first legally sanctioned community of free blacks. Home to former slaves who fled the Carolinas, they formed a militia and established a fort north of St. Augustine to help protect the city. The community grew to include soldiers and their families, as well as craftsmen and artisans. By 1740, the militia defended St. Augustine against the British in the Battle of Bloody Mose.

Derek Hankerson’s family is native to St. Johns County, and his ancestry here can be traced as far back as the 18th century. Members of his family have proudly served in every American conflict dating back to and including the American Revolution. Several family members fought on both sides of the civil war, including the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and Stalling’s Battalion.

Tuesday evening, Hankerson will discuss the origin and history of the National Underground Railroad, as well as the importance of Fort Mose and those veterans who earned their freedom in the Florida territory.  He will also present a short film that he co-produced for the 2012 National Underground Railroad Conference. Question and answer session to follow.

There is no admission charge and you do not need to be a member of the Saint Augustine Tea Party to attend and participate.