By Kennedi Holder
Community members gathered at Kingsley Plantation to educate themselves on the history of slavery in Florida. The free family-friendly event took attendees back to a time in history where plantation life and slavery were commonplace.
Last week, The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve hosted the 21st Kingsley Heritage Celebration Saturday. Built in 1798, Kingsley Plantation is Florida’s oldest standing plantation era structure. Kingsley Plantation is named after Zephaniah Kingsley, a previous owner of the land for 25 years during the 19th-century. It features the original plantation house, kitchen, barn, and the remains of 25 slave cabins.
The celebration included living history exhibitions on cooking, weaving, spinning, and planting. Visitors also had the opportunity to watch a musket demonstration. Those in attendance could also participate in activities such as cotton ginning, butter churning, or playing a game of cricket.
Emily Palmer, park ranger for the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, has participated in the festivities for the past 10 years. This year she was stationed in the main living room of the plantation house, teaching attendees about spinning cotton and showing them how it’s done. She said this is the first time that the celebration has taken place in March, as it is usually in February.
“The government shutdown resulted in multiple days becoming one,” Palmer said. “We had to postpone and reschedule the event in order to accommodate.” The most recent federal shutdown was the longest United States government shutdown in history, lasting 35 days. Palmer also said that the Kingsley Heritage Celebration draws in respectable crowds. “Although it depends on the weather, this is one of biggest events of the year.”
There were also live performances by Nan Nkama Pan-African Drum Ensemble and Cynthia Watts, a traditional storyteller. Watts stories are centered on African traditions passed down through generations. “The way that slavery ended for most folks was that Union soldiers would be marching, and come to a plantation,” Watts said. “Once there, the bell would ring and all of the people from the field would come in.”
Attendees stressed the importance of acknowledging the past. Slavery is unarguably a dark time in the past of the United States. It is the strong sense of community that is essential to the success of events like the Kingsley Heritage Celebration.