Journey: The World’s First Civil Rights Legislation

We share little known story of what some historians call the first piece of civil rights legislation in the world.

“The King of Spain created the edict of 1693 which to my knowledge and other scholars appears to be the first civil rights legislation in the New World. It stated that if you were enslaved on an English plantation, if you could make it to Spanish territory that you would be given your freedom. With the provision that you join the militia, became Catholic and provided some service,” said James Bullock, historian.

“Governor Montiano who was governor of Spanish Florida at that time decreed that any freedom seekers that ran away from the Carolinas and they, the runaway slaves, that made their way down from the Carolinas to Spanish Florida would obtain their freedom and would be able to live free at Fort Mose, said Thomas Jackson, Vice President of Fort Mose Historical Society.

“It is a part of US history that’s just not well known. The first Underground Railroad runs south. It runs south to St. Augustine, not North,” said J. Michael Francis, University of South Florida.

How do people on a plantation hear that you can find freedom in Spanish Florida.

“It would kinda start out like… if you hear in the background there’s some music, maybe some drums playing… the tune would be “Steal Away” and that would be a signal that they need to Steal Away to Fort Mose,” said Jackson.

“It might help or it might not matter to you that from Charleston to St. Augustine is 377 miles,” said Bullock.

“In the Carolinas or Georgia or as far north as New York we have runaway slaves from Virginia and New York trying to make their way to St. Augustine really beginning at the end of the 17th Century and then in earnest in the 18th Century,” siad Francis.

“This was a story not about slavery. But that the Fort Mose story is a story about freedom,” said Bullock.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Don't Miss

Trending Stories

Report It

Latest News

More Local News