The Story of St. Augustine’s Fort Mose Gets New Visibility

There is a riveting piece of 330-year-old history in St. Augustine that can be found at Fort Mose Historic State Park just off US 1. It’s the story of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in the United States, and the often-overlooked story of how enslaved people traversed the Underground Railroad south to reach it.

Once a year, a Flight to Freedom event takes place for more than 2,000 students and the public. During that event, re-enactors bring to life the story of what it was like for the escaped slaves to make the treacherous journey from the Carolinas to this free settlement. But those who are devoted to telling the Fort Mose story wanted to be able to share that story more widely through a self-guided educational tour experience.

Photos © laird / blac palm inc.

We at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida became aware of the request because of our connection to the Florida State Parks Foundation. CEO Julia Gill Woodard approached us for help with the project, which will add interactive educational signage along the ¾-mile trail, along with signs including QR codes for visitors to scan, launching videos of the reenactors telling their story. This will allow the reenactment and history to be experienced all year long.

The Community Foundation issued a challenge match grant for $10,000 and Florida Power and Light stepped up with $15,000. Together, the $25,000 will make the Flight to Freedom signage project a reality.

“We are delighted to invest in making the Flight to Freedom Trail even more compelling with these enhancements,” noted Nina Waters, president, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. “By building on the work already done by Fort Mose’s leadership and volunteers, we can further educate our community about the rich history of African American individuals in St. Augustine.”

For more information about The Community Foundation’s work in St. Augustine, contact Mark LeMaire at (904) 356-4483 or mlemaire@jaxcf.org.