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Fort Mose Historic State Park (originally known as Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé) is a U.S. National Historic Landmark (designated as such on October 12, 1994), located two miles north of St. Augustine, Florida, on the edge of a salt marsh on the western side of the waterway separating the mainland from the coastal barrier islands. The original site of the 18th-century fort was uncovered in a 1986 archeological dig. The 24-acre (9.7 ha) site is now protected as a Florida State Park, administered through the Anastasia State Recreation Area. Fort Mose is the “premier site on the Florida Black Heritage Trail.”
In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida, Manuel de Montiano, had Fort Mose (pronounced “Moh-say”) built and established as a free black settlement, the first to be legally sanctioned in what would become the territory of the United States. The fort has also been known as Fort Moosa or Fort Mossa, variants of the Spanish pronunciation.
An archeological excavation in 1986 revealed the site of the original Fort Mose, as well as the second facility constructed in 1752. Today, artifacts are displayed in the museum within the visitor center at the park. On the grounds, interpretive panels are used to illustrate the history of the site. Three replicas of historic items have been installed within the park: a chosa or a cooking hut, a small historic garden, and a small Spanish flat boat called a barca chata.
As early as 1687, the Spanish government had begun to offer asylum to slaves from British colonies. In 1693, the Spanish Crown officially proclaimed that runaways would find freedom in Florida, in return for converting to Catholicism and a term for men of four years’ military service to the Crown. In effect, Spain created a maroon settlement in Florida as a front-line defense against English attacks from the north. Spain also intended to destabilize the plantation economy of the British colonies by creating a free black community to attract slaves seeking escape and refuge from British slavery.