Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Webpage: National Park
General Description: The Kingsley Plantation is administered by the National Park System as a unit in the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. About 1000 acres on Fort George Island was purchased in 1814 by Zephaniah Kingsley as one of several plantations amounting to over 32000 acres. On Fort George Island, Zephaniah grew Sea Island Cotton using the task system of slavery where slaves were given a daily task that most days could be completed by early afternoon. The remainder of the day the slaves were able to pursue their own lives including small scale farms and crafts that they could sell or trade. Zephaniah Kingsley believed and wrote about a system of slavery based on the three tier society of owners, freemen, and slaves as defined by the Spanish. Under this system slaves had the opportunity to either earn or save money to purchase their freedom and the freedom of their family. Freemen generally lived with the slaves and continued to work on the plantation for wages, the major advantage being they nor their family could be sold. Kingsley also believed in the Spanish view that slaves were people and not just property, a belief that he lived by. After purchasing Anna, an African slave, he freed her and married her before moving to Fort George Island. In addition to raising their children, Anna ran the household and often handled the affairs of the plantation in Zephaniah absence. Zephaniah even embraced Anna’s heritage and had three other freed slaves wives or concubines, although Anna remained the primary wife. When the United States purchased Florida from Spain in 1821, the laws about slavery began to change mirroring the much harsher laws in the plantation south. Kingsley was against these harsh and restrictive laws and published his opinions in 1828. Fearing for his family, he moved his wife, Anna and their sons to Haiti in 1837 where he established a colony for his family and some of his former slaves. Following the Civil War, Fort George Island shifted from agricultural to recreation with many country clubs. Located on the property today are Kingsley original plantation home and detached kitchen, a tabby barn, and 23 of the 32 tabby cabins for slaves. The National Park also provides a free audio tour of the property that give the history and culture of the plantation in the 1800s.
1) The Visitor Center is also an historic structure representing the use of the island for private clubs and hotels following the Civil War until the Great Depression. There is a very small museum that gives some of the history of the island including information about the Spanish mission from the 16th century that was active for over 100 years.
2) The house is well maintained and it is interesting to see the expansions that have occurred over time.
3) The audio tour is very well done using a GPS phone that automatically detects when you approach one of the numbered stops all over the property. They also use it to show some short film clips that give additional information. For instance, there is a clip on the making of tabby that was used to build all of the original buildings. Much of the audio tour was about the life of the slaves on the plantation with stories of hardships and hope. The audio tour added a lot to the experience and should not be missed.
4) They have a small garden where they showcase the crops grown by Kingsley including Sea Island cotton, indigo, and fruit trees.