Gracia Real de Santa Teresa Mose (known simply as Fort Mose) was the first legally sanctioned, free African settlement in what is now continental United States. Fort Mose was established by Spanish Governor Manuel de Montiano in March 1738 to be home to over 100 former slaves from British South Carolina who had made the perilous journey south to sanctuary and freedom in Spanish Florida. Fort Mose served two purposes. First, it was the first line of defense at a key juncture of trails leading to the disputed lands to the north and west to Spanish settlements in Appalache and beyond. Second, it was a place where Africans were given land to build their homes, farm and raise their families as free men, women and children.
For many decades before Fort Mose’s founding, Africans in ever increasing numbers were fleeing enslavement on the British rice and indigo plantations in the coastal regions of South Carolina seeking the opportunity to live as free men, women and children in Spanish Florida. Flight to Freedom tells their story of this dangerous and life risking over 300 mile journey through forests, swamps, marshes and water ways as visitors are taken along the “Freedom Trail” south to Fort Mose. For every freedom seeker who succeeded in reaching the sanctuary of Florida countless others either perished on the way or were recaptured, harshly punished and returned to slavery. Flight to Freedom honors and remembers all those who risked everything in search of freedom and opportunity to live their own lives. It is a timeless story which resonates to this day.