Fort Mose Festal Returns With More Jazz & Blues

Rapper/Actor/Author Common
by Lynn Jones –   Fort Mose Historic State Park hosted its third installment of the Fort Mose Jazz & Blues Series over a two week period with Black History Month as the backdrop/Honoring history and community through music, the lineup of internationally renowned artists included Common, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) with Wynton Marsalis, Keb’ Mo’, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram and others.
Enjoying the Fort Mose Jazz & Blues Festival is Pam Prier with Val and Vincent Greene
A portion of the proceeds from the festival will support the Fort Mose Historical Society in their mission to promote and preserve the site’s rich history. The park recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony to begin building a full-scale replica of the original fort built in Fort Mose Historic State Park, America’s first legally sanctioned free Black community.

Located in our own back yard in nearby St. Augustine, Fort Mose’s historical documents show that slaves first began arriving by foot and dugout canoes to Spanish-ruled St. Augustine in 1687, seeking refuge from British colonial enslavement. By 1693, Spain’s king, Carlos II, granted freedom to all individuals seeking freedom from British colonial rule in St. Augustine. As word of the chance of freedom spread, slaves continued to arrive, despite what history describes as a journey of treacherous proportions.

By 1738, Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, — Fort Mose — had become a sanctuary for former slaves who pledged their allegiance to Spain and the Catholic Church while guarding northern St. Augustine against British invaders.
In 1740, the fort was captured by the British during the Battle of Bloody Mose, but not before its inhabitants safely evacuated to the Castillo de San Marcos.

Documents show that while Fort Mose’s Free Black Militia, along with Spanish and native troops, won the battle, the fort was destroyed. The fort’s inhabitants peacefully assimilated into the surrounding region.

As remnants of first fort drowned into the marshlands, in 1752, a new fort was built within proximity of its original location. Then. in 1763, Spain ceded Florida to the British. Now under threat of enslavement, most of the fort’s residents fled to Spanish Cuba.

The fort was refurbished and subsequently abandoned by the British before it was overcome by salt marshlands.

Fast forward to 1989, the 41-acre area was acquired by the state of Florida and became Fort Mose Historic State Park. In 1994, Fort Mose was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Lincoln Orchestra

Founded in 1996, the Fort Mose Historical Society set their sights on sharing the story of Fort Mose Historic State Park. The reconstruction project was launched in 2012. By November 2023 the project had successfully raised the estimated $3 million needed for construction.

As patrons enjoyed the night concerts they could also revisit its history. A museum and visitors’ center at the park tells its history through displays and artifacts, and a replica of an old cooking shed stands on the grounds. All traces of the original fortifications that once stood on the site are gone.

Getting there was not quite a simple venture as there was no parking at the park or in the surrounding neighborhood for the concerts. Shuttles ran from a free parking lot at the St. Johns County Health Department about a mile from the park. Organizers brought in  restroom trailers and vendors for the shows which included food and libations for patrons to enjoy amidst the historic setting.

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