Kingsley Plantation is a trip to the past

By Lillian Seays Over the years, the historic Kingsley Plantation has remained the only visual vestige of slavery in Florida.

A thick canopy of oaks and cypresses covers the narrow half mile of dirt road, where an intermittent stream of visitors arrives at the dramatic site that once was the slave quarters. These 200-year-old cabins confirm that it has arrived at the Kingsley Plantation - the only visual vestige of slavery in Florida.

This plantation is at the north end of Fort George Island , the most southerly place on the Sea Islands in the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville < / strong>. The site is located within the 46,000 acres of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, which is a haven for threatened birds such as the bare-headed stork, painted bluebird and 340 other species.
Visitors here feel as if they are transiting to the past. The historical constructions in this place - the plantation house, the kitchen (which is a separate structure), the stable and the slaves' huts - were made by the slaves in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Zephaniah Kingsley , for whom the plantation bears his name, was the owner who was the longest on this site. Kingsley married a 13-year-old slave girl from Senegal, Anta Madgigine Jai, whom he bought in Havana. The two moved to Fort George Island in 1814. In Florida, Anta was known as "Anna Kingsley".

Today, the plantation's two-story house is still standing, facing the shore of the Fort George River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean about a mile off the horizon. The constant humming of the cicadas and the singing of the birds continue, and the main house still contains some of the furniture and dishes that belonged to Kingsley.
The durability of the stable and what remains of the slaves' houses - originally there were 32 small buildings where they lived between 60 and 80 slaves, of which 25 remain - is due to "tabby", a type of cement created with crushed oyster shells mixed with lime, sand, water and whole shells. It is said that tabby is the result of the combination of knowledge of West Africa, Spain and American Indians. Once the tabby hardened, the walls were covered with lime stucco to smooth them. These buildings have endured 200 years of use and being exposed to nature, and are considered some of the best examples of constructions made with tabby of the country. Kingsley believed in slavery, but it is said that he was a slave owner more humane than most others, and that he was more sensitive to their needs than other owners. Under his direction, the plantation operated with a "system of allocations," where the land was divided into quarter-acre sections and each slave was assigned a specific activity for that sector, such as sowing, weeding, or gathering. When the slaves finished their tasks, they could take care of the needs of their families. According to the legend, on the rainy days the slaves took refuge in the barn where they exchanged stories, sang and even organized meetings.

Kingsley Plantation is much more than a historic attraction, especially for the African-American community. This place offers a connection with the past and is a source of pride for African Americans as the work of their ancestors still stands as an exceptional test of talent, courage and endurance.

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