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Unhiding History: A Florida Fort that Promised Freedom

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June 23 @ 1:00 pm 2:30 pm

Did you know that a prosperous, self-governing community of free Black people existed on American soil before the Civil War?  This fascinating but little-known chapter in African-American history took place in the mostly unregulated swamplands of Spanish Florida, before the territory became part of the United States. At the end of the War of 1812, a regiment of Black soldiers who’d fought for Britain became instilled with abolitionist ideas and were left in command of a military fort at Prospect Bluffs, FL. Over its years of existence, the Fort grew to encompass houses and farmland and was a hub of trade with the local Seminole tribes. It also became a magnet for enslaved people across the border to flee plantations in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama — which led to the so-called ‘Negro Fort’ becoming a target for US military forces. The Fort’s destruction, however, was just one part of this community’s incredible story: the surviving inhabitants embarked on an epic journey across decades, down the Florida peninsula and into the Caribbean, clinging to papers and promises of freedom from the British Crown.

Theatre-maker Brian Mullin first researched the Fort and its community on a Hearst Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society in 2018. Based in the UK, Brian has just received seed funding from Kings College London, along with director Tian Brown-Sampson, to begin developing this transatlantic story into a theatre piece that also explores its resonance to later histories of Black Caribbeans and the British Empire.

Join us to learn this story and share your own emotional and imaginative responses to it.

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