Sgt. 1st Class R. L. Douglass
This month is Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month. The theme for this year is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memory.” Now this could mean a number of different things for many people depending on their particular views and beliefs which is why this theme is so appropriate. There are those who think some historical sites have significance because of where a particular event happened and there are those who hold a place dear because of the people in that place. No matter your reason, these places have been noted for their historical value and lessons.
Here are some little known facts and locations I would like to share for this month based on the theme for this year:
The largest plantation house in Florida is the Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island. The main house was built by slaves in 1738, and was sold to Zephaniah Kingsley and his wife, Anta Madgigine Jai in 1815. When the U.S. gained possession of Florida in 1821, Kingsley fought against laws that greatly prohibited the activities of slaves and free Blacks, and even wrote a major treatise on the subject. Even though he owned slaves, he was a strong believer in treating people according to their abilities, not their color.
Founded in 1738, Fort Mose Settlement was the first community of free ex-slaves. It was located at a Spanish colony in Florida called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose. Before the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves could escape to the colony and get their freedom when they declared their allegiance to the King of Spain and joined the Catholic Church.
April 5, 1945, the 477th Bombardment Group, the first Black bomber group, attempted to integrate an all-White officers’ club at Freeman Field, Indiana. As the officers attempted to enter, they were arrested. By the end of the evening, 103 officers had been arrested. The trials drew national attention. The Freeman Field Mutiny is regarded as an important step toward the integration of the U.S. military.
Seneca Village was a settlement in central Manhattan that comprised a small part of present-day Central Park. It is thought to have been Manhattan’s first stable community of African-American property owners from 1825 to the mid-1850s.
In 1866, the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment was formed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and recruited Black men from Northern states. The men in the 10th Cavalry were known as the original “Buffalo Soldiers,” and generations proudly fought for their country from the Cavalry’s installation until its deactivation in Algeria in April of 1944, marking the end of the Regiment.
Although these examples are by no means even a small portion of the locations and people, they do hold significant places in our history for one reason or another. The information on these facts and others can be found at your local library here on WSMR or http://www.americaslibrary.gov.