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Book Report: Slavery in Florida

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Essay title: Book Report: Slavery in Florida

The book entitled Slavery In Florida was written in 2000 by Larry E. Rivers. Rivers is a professor of history at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. He is also the author of more than twenty articles in refereed scholarly journals, including the Florida Historical Quarterly and the Journal of Negro History. His work has earned the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s Carter G. Woodson Award and the Florida Historical Society’s Arthur W. Thompson Prize.

The book mainly focuses on the mid-19th century, shortly before Florida became part of the United States and the period thereafter until the Civil War. However, it does give a brief history which goes back to the 16th century. It gives an account of the Spanish journey to Florida, however it is argued that slaves in Florida were treated much better than slaves in the Old South. In fact, starting in 1683, Florida began to serve as a safe haven for runaway slaves from the South. When slaves ran away to Florida, they could earn their freedom by converting to Roman Catholicism. Also contrary to what was going on elsewhere, it was very much possible for Blacks to gain social standing in the colonial community. It is also interesting to note that in Florida, as with other Spanish colonies, slavery wasn’t based on race by itself, and for the runaways, the transition from slave to citizen was not very difficult.

I think it was interesting that miscegenation became almost commonplace in colonial Florida, especially between white men and black women. However, this was also different from the kind that took place in the Old South because the slaveholders would actually claim these children as theirs, help raise them, and would almost always set them free in his will if he hadn’t done so before then. One man, Joseph Forsyth, had three children with one of his slaves. He set them free, and paid for their transportation to the North, the education of their children, shelter, food, and clothing. In many instances, black women, free and enslaved, would marry white men. I also found it interesting because of what we always hear about slavery, that most mulatto slaves are never claimed by their fathers, they are treated no different than a black slave most of the time.


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