The King’s Edict’ Project, was made possible with a major grant from the Florida Humanities Council. The Project Sponsor was Troy Community Academy and its director Jennifer Schuster. TROY Academy worked in the partnership with the City of Miami ‘Parks and Recreation Department’ and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Project advisors were Dr. Paul George, Dr. Jane Landers and Gene Dinizulu Tinnie. The project director was William Keddell.
THE SPANISH KING’S EDICT
The Florida peninsula was the first part of the United States to be settled by Europeans. When the Spanish arrived, Florida also gained the dubious distinction of being the first state where Africans were enslaved. As early as 1581, Africans were forcibly imported to build the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine. This, however, is the story of another Florida, the Florida that generations of Africans and Native Americans knew as a beacon of freedom.
The first part of our story tells how Florida for about two hundred years, allowed and encouraged enslaved Africans and Native Americans to escape exploitation in the colonies to the north. The second part tells how these refugees defended their freedom with unequalled tenacity and valor.
What made Florida a haven was the Spanish King’s Edict. In 1693 Charles II of Spain commanded his Governor to set free all blacks who arrived in Florida with the instruction that they “accept the sacraments and the advocacy of the church.”
In the era that followed, populations of free Africans and Native Americans flourished. Both groups built settlements that sprang up side by side and often established special alliances including intermarriage. Consequently, for many generations Florida had a population of multi-ethnic and multi-lingual, free and independent Seminoles.
That changed in the early 1800s, when the United States military pursued an ‘all out war’ in Florida to eradicate the free Seminoles. We will see how effectively the Seminoles defended their freedom and witness the treachery by which the Americans eventually prevailed. After the Seminoles’ defeat, the freedom of the earlier era would be largely forgotten, ignored, or repressed. Fortunately, recent research by historians and archeologists has shed light on this long neglected chapter of Florida history. The KING’S EDICT project, through a booklet, exhibition, and seminar, is an attempt to alert the general public, educators, and students to some of these groundbreaking recent discoveries