Title: Fort Mose: And the Story of the Man Who Built the First Free Black Settlement in Colonial America
Author: Glennette Tilley Turner
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Concepts: slavery, racial inequality, discrimination, human resources, trade
Review: Francisco Menendez, a former slave from South Carolina, made an important contribution to U.S. history by serving as military leader of Fort Mose, the first free black settlement and one of the original sites of the Underground Railroad. When Menendez escaped from South Carolina to Spanish-controlled St. Augustine, Florida, he helped to establish Fort Mose on the outskirts of the town as a first line of defense against British attacks.
Word of this community and its sanctuary policy quickly spread north and led to a growing population of escaped slaves at Fort Mose. Destroyed during a battle against the British, the fort was rebuilt once and ultimately abandoned when Florida became a British colony in 1763.
In speculating about Menendez’s early background, the book includes detailed information about the slave trade and the cruel treatment of Africans once they were captured and forced into slavery. The historical narrative also includes discussions of property rights disputes and rice production in the South, thus making Fort Mose a useful reference book for some of the economic issues underlying slavery and military conflicts in Colonial America.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children