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Fort Mose: And the Story of the Man Who Built the First Free Black Settlement in Colonial America Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 1, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-8–In the 18th century, some Africans escaped slavery in England's southern colonies to find freedom in the Spanish colony of Florida. As a leader of St. Augustine's community, African-born Francisco Menendez helped establish Fort Mose, the first free black community on North American soil. Turner does an excellent job of explaining how the residents of Fort Mose probably blended African, English, and Spanish traditions to create a unique–and uniquely American–culture. Her careful choice of words and images demonstrates that drawing such conclusions about early American history can be difficult when written records are hard to find and sketchy at best. For instance, a 16th-century sketch of a Florida Timucua Indian village is juxtaposed with a 20th-century photo of a West African village. Captions explain that Menendez “would have been familiar” with the design of these African buildings. The text also elaborates on how Fort Mose buildings probably combined Native American and African architectural elements. An afterword explains that Fort Mose no longer stands, but its site is included in Florida's state-park system. Turner describes her research in an author's note. This is a useful addition to libraries with strong African-American history collections, and for teachers and librarians looking for unique stories about colonial America.Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This well-researched book introduces Francisco Menendez, a strong, remarkable African man whose struggle for freedom in America predated the Civil War and even the American Revolution. Born in West Africa around 1700, Mendez was captured and sold as a slave in South Carolina. After fighting with the Indians of the southeast in the Yamasee War, in which they rose up against the English colonists, he went to St. Augustine seeking sanctuary and freedom but was enslaved by the Spanish. Eventually, he was granted unconditional freedom and named the leader of Fort Mose, Florida, the first “officially sanctioned free black town in what is now the United States.” Though there are challenges in writing Menendez’s life story when so little is known, particularly about his early life, Turner’s graceful account clearly distinguishes between fact and supposition. The paragraphs discussing the transport of slaves and their treatment at the “pest” house on Sullivan’s Island are particularly vivid and informative. Back matter includes a glossary, source notes for quotes, and an extensive source bibliography. Brightening every page of this large, handsome book are deep-green borders of tropical leaves. Illustrations include period paintings, drawings, maps, and documents. A significant addition to African American history collections for young people. Grades 7-10. --Carolyn Phelan
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810940566
  • ASIN: B005CDUTZG
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,361,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dienne TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I stumbled upon this book at the library the other day. I've been so happy to see more and more books coming out for kids lately regarding overlooked and forgotten heroes and events in American history involving African-Americans and other non-white people and groups. It gives a much richer feel of history than the white-washed version I was fed as a child, especially for minority children (my own daughters are biracial). I will definitely be adding this book to our permanent collection.

This book, as its title suggests, is the story of the first black settlement in Colonial America and the man who built and ran it, Francisco Menendez. Not much is known for sure about Menendez's early life, except for the fact that he was born in the Senegambia region of Africa in the Mandingo tribe. The book traces the likely experiences that Menendez would have had as a child in Africa and the likely path he took to slavery in the Carolina colony (later South Carolina).

The Senegambia region of Africa was known as the "Rice Coast" because rice was one of the main crops grown there. Slaves from this region were particularly attractive to slaveowners in the Carolina colony because they had discovered that rice was one of the few profitable crops that could be grown there. Mandingo slaves were particularly valuable for their experience with rice growing. This is rather different than the typical image of how slaves were purchased that is presented in history books. History books typically focus on slaveowners examining the teeth and muscles of glistening Africans stripped to the waist, as if they were purchasing a pack mule or other labor animal.
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Format: Hardcover
Francisco Menendez, a former slave from South Carolina, made an important contribution to U.S. history by serving as military leader of Fort Mose, the first free black settlement and one of the original sites of the Underground Railroad. When Menendez escaped from South Carolina to Spanish-controlled St. Augustine, Florida, he helped to establish Fort Mose on the outskirts of the town as a first line of defense against British attacks.

Word of this community and its sanctuary policy quickly spread north and led to a growing population of escaped slaves at Fort Mose. Destroyed during a battle against the British, the fort was rebuilt once and ultimately abandoned when Florida became a British colony in 1763.

In speculating about Menendez's early background, the book includes detailed information about the slave trade and the cruel treatment of Africans once they were captured and forced into slavery. The historical narrative also includes discussions of property rights disputes and rice production in the South, thus making Fort Mose a useful reference book for some of the economic issues underlying slavery and military conflicts in Colonial America.
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Format: Hardcover
Glennette Tilley Turner grew up surrounded by aunts who enjoyed learning about history. Her Aunt Jean published her first story about Fort Mose in the New York Times in 1978. As explained in her author's note, she kept running into information about Fort Mose over the years and eventually decided to write this book. The completeness of the story indicate a story written not only from passion, but from extensive research. The rear of the book details the print sources, individuals and site locations that Turner consulted in writing about Fort Mose, the first settlement of free Blacks in what is now the United States. Turner gives as much information as she can about Francisco Menendez, the leader of the community, but where the information is lacking, Turner provides background information about the era to complete the picture.

While we don't know exactly where or when Menendez was born, or what his birth name would have been is West Africa, Turner describes the naming rituals his parents probably would have used. We learn about the rice plantations in the Carolinas in the early 18th century and how Menendez would have used previously acquired skills to add to the local economy. The relationship between the Spanish, British, Native Americans and Africans is essential to understand how Fort Mose developed and it is developed in a manner that is clear and concise. By combining what is known about Fort Mose with what is know about Menendez, readers are able to understand the importance of Fort Mose in the history of the United States and the role Black people played in making the Fort important. This story helps raise our perception of Africans brought to America from being perceived as slaves to being seen as people.

Images are used to document the details of the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We first saw this book at a museum in St. Augustine, Florida, near where Fort Mose was located. Anyone interested in Black history will find this an interesting and informative book. Copies were purchased for family members who have shown an interest in this subject and they found the illustrations and text to be interesting, easy to read and informative.
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