Russell Garvin


Freedom for negroes in a society where race was the only qualification for slavery was at best an anomaly and at worst an illusion. In either case though, freedom survived alongside slavery. Florida first acquired free Negroes early in the seventeenth century. In 1704 the Spanish governor, Zuniga, opened the territory to fugitive slaves from British plantations to the North. Thus established, potential liberty across the border tempted Carolina blacks and tormented their white owners. It was hoped that the colonization of Georgia would serve as a buffer region to prevent the escape of slaves to Florida. Carolina benefited, but Georgia, once slaves had been imported, found the runaway problem its biggest nuisance, and it remained for Georgia a continuous problem. Spanish correspondence of the period reveals a regular flow of Negroes into Florida. Once in the region the blacks lived as free subjects of the Bourbon king. They were soon numerous enough to be formed into companies to aid in the defense of the territory. A refuge for the Negroes, Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, was established three miles north of St. Augustine by the accommodating Spanish authorities in 1739.