Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked, "Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho' we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny."
That perspective also translates well to African-Americans' oft-overcast history in the Sunshine State.
Blacks have been instrumental to Florida's fortunes, and the tribulations and victories Africans have experienced here since the first blacks participated in 16th century Spanish explorations and in the establishment of St. Augustine in 1565 are woven into the Florida fabric as tight as the red bars lancing the Florida flag.
Nine years ago, the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, took note of that history, publishing The Florida Black Heritage Trail, a compendium of more than 140 places that reflects African Americans' significance to the history of Florida.
Throughout the state, history buffs can enjoy historic destinations that preserve, embrace and celebrate the bittersweet saga of black Floridians.
From life in the 17th century as escaped slaves in Spanish Florida, to the slavery that ensued after Spain ceded the territory to the United States in 1821, through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, Florida is a rich repository of African-American history.
If you want proof of this, visit any of the 10 black heritage sites listed below. A trip is guaranteed to whet your appetite for some cultural soul food.
Dade Battlefield State Historic Site
Off Route 476, west on U.S. 301, Bushnell 352-793-4781
Visiting hours: daily, 8 a.m.-dusk
In 1835, the Second Seminole War, which raged for seven years, began with a battle at this site, where slaves who had escaped from Georgia and the Carolinas joined Seminole Indians in an ambush of U.S. soldiers led by Maj. Francis Dade. In the carnage that followed, Louis Pacheco (also known as Louis Fatio), a black slave who had served as an interpreter for Dade, was one of only four survivors.
Kingsley Plantation State Historic Site
11676 Palmetto Ave., on Fort George Island, Jacksonville 904-251-3537
Visiting hours: 8 a.m.-sunset, daily; guided tours Thursday-Monday
Off highway A1A north of Jacksonville, the Zephaniah Kingsley plantation is the oldest plantation house in Florida. Kingsley settled on Fort George Island in 1803, where he smuggled slaves to slaveholders across the Georgia border. Kingsley married one of his slaves, and left the land and buildings to her when he died in 1843. Remains of slave cabins, service structures, and the master's house are on view at the state's oldest remaining example of an 18th century cotton and sugarcane plantation.
Bethune-Cookman College/Mary McLeod Bethune Home
640 Second Ave., Daytona Beach 904-255-1401 ext. 372
Visiting hours: college, Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Bethune home, by appointment
Mary McLeod Bethune was a renaissance woman for the Jazz Age. Educator, administrator, presidential adviser and civil rights leader, Bethune opened the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in a community of black railroad construction workers, drawing philanthropic support from white northerners. In 1923, the school merged with the Cookman Institute for Boys of Jacksonville, changing its name to Bethune-Cookman College eight years later. Her home is a simple two-story building where she lived from the 1920s until her death in 1955. It contains original furnishings and archives for the Mary McLeod Bethune papers.
Ten Stops Along Florida's Black Heritage Trail
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