Artist: Charles Bibbs~ African Goddess
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
New International Version (NIV)
It’s no wonder that I love art that expresses freedom, resilience, strength and cultural pride. Charles Bibb’s beautiful painting entitled: African Goddess is a favorite piece of mine, it powerfully resonates that truth for me that our multifacted experiences and diversity is not only etched on our faces but especially encompasses our spirits. And this of course lends each of us with a measure of pride that God has fashioned each of us in His very our own unique way. Or as some would say, “we are a designers original!” It’s scripture that reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! I’d like to think that this too is apart of my spiritual, cultural and family DNA-pride in whom God created me to be!
My paternal family’s last name is Mose and I am convinced that our ancestry has a direct link with the descendants of Ft. Mose (Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose) located in St. Augustine, Florida which encourages me greatly.
Here are a few eye opening facts: in the 1700’s Ft. Mose was a pioneering community with a diverse cultural community of Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans-free Blacks, and ex slaves that sought safety and a refuge from the atrocities of slavery in the British colonies. Many runaways understood that the Spanish King offered freedom to those seeking conversion and baptism. For runaways this offer was an exceptable alternative and Spainards in turn gained skilled workers and men needed to build their militia.
On the upside apparently few slaves were returned. When the Spanish conquistador Pedro Menendez founded St. Augustine’s in 1565 he was accompanied by black crew members. So it seems our presence is inescapable. Imagine the first recorded birth of a black child occurring some thirteen years prior to the Jamestown landing in 1619. And just a few miles north of St. Augustine was a settlement with free Africans in Fort Caroline. There’s so much history rich with startling facts that indicate Fort Mose, the northern defense wasn’t just a homestead but St. Augustine’s secure buttress against British invasion.
My genealogy homework has begun and I am loving it. Look out history detectives; I want a piece of the action also!
Years ago my parents read about Fort Mose, Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose– “the name is a composite of an existing Indian place, Mose, the phrase that indicated that the new town was established by the king, Gracia Real, and the name of the town’s patron saint, Teresa of Aviles, who was the patron saint of Spain.”* this news was very intriguing and thus my folks were on a mission to enlighten us. They began sharing with our family about the significance of this Florida community far from our beloved and familiar surroundings and home of Buffalo, New York. Imagine prior to that we were unaware of our notable US lineage and possibly the Caribbean. This lineage ties and directly links us to the home place of historic St. Augustine, Florida the birthplace of African Americans. You wonder if they’ve visited?
Oh yes, my parents and several other family members have visited. My father continues to make periodic visits. Most recently he encouraged me to make a trip to Ft. Mose and reminded me of it’s now close proximity to Central Florida.
Well from the photos you now know we’ve made the sojourn and was it ever exhilarating! Yes, for the heart, mind, body and spirit, self discovery and renewal is the best description for now.
While there I purchased a book and have scoured the pages of: *Fort Mose, Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose: A Free Black Town in Spanish Colonial Florida by Dr. Jane Landers. (1992 St. Augustine Historical Society). I am reviewing it a second time, I don’t want to miss any facts I might have overlooked. I am so enthralled by Dr. Landers research that I’ve reached out to her in an effort to learn more.
My husband and I are most appreciative of her comprehensive work. While reading and surveying St. Augustine’s time line, it was simply captivating, grasping all of the historic implications of Africans being free in the Spanish colonies. They were cultivating and owning land, earning wages, marrying and living with their families, embracing Catholicism or their desired faiths and being skilled artisans. This was far from the reality of enslaved African brethren just a short distance away in the British Colonies.
I can’t help but applaud and marvel at industrious residents of Ft. Mose and those which actively pursued emancipation. They were tenacious, brave and determined to remain or to seek out freedom. Their freedom was nothing illusive! They tasted it, breathed it, lived it and fought for it constantly! The Ft. Mose residents understood fully the importance of battling against the atrocities of a horrid system and agreed to the Spainards requirement of military service. Curious about this? Well be sure to reference Captain Menendez of the slave militia which fought for years against the Yamasee rebellion. So here my friends stood a refuge-a safe haven, a multicultural community where those individuals and families which resided were vital to the King’s agenda, were respected and revered as they guarded their most sacred posession of being free from a life without the shackles of mental cruelty and physical slavery.
Can’t believe this journey started so long ago. Archivist, history detectives, truth lovers, teachers, professors, text book writers, you and me can now learn, teach and share the significant contributions and sacrifices experienced at Ft. Mose where resilient spirited men and women stood vigil and changed history.
Indeed we are moving closer to home, closer to a remarkable historical identity rooted in who I am and who we are! No longer is Ft. Mose a distant, mysterious location on Google map, now it’s a short distance away, imagine that! Just like our ancestors, we too are curious about what lies before us! With a spirit of thanksgiving we are thriving-determined to live and carve out a world filled with opportunities and savor sweet freedom! We come this far by faith!
With A Thankful Heart!
Linda Mose Meadows, Columnist and Inspirational Author of: The Blessedness of Believing A Devotional Journey of Life’s Lessons and God’s Promises and Co-publisher of Eyes of Faith Magazine