Facts About The Kingsley Plantation House Built By Slaves That Waged War Against U.S. Laws

Kingsley Plantation House. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Shrickus
Kingsley Plantation House. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Shrickus


Many historians have described it as breathtaking, with a great deal of thought put into the architectural design and construction. The inventiveness is evident in the numerous angles and windows that adorn the structure. The goal of having so many windows was to allow enough breeze to flow through all of the rooms at any time of day.

According to Explore Southern History, the Kingsley Plantation House, built by enslaved Africans in 1798, deviated from the way and manner plantation edifices were built. The only characteristic of plantation houses preserved in the construction of the Kingsley House was the front view of the Fort George River. As a result, the river and the traditional entry route to and from the plantation house became the farm’s focal point.

The river became a vital transportation route for cotton and other crops from the plantation to the market. The Kingsley Plantation House, located on Fort George Island, is Florida’s oldest structure. It became one of the most iconic symbols of slavery in the Spanish colony of Florida.

It drew American businessmen and slave owners who saw Florida as a fertile land for tobacco, sugar cane, corn, and cotton cultivation. However, in 1814, Zephaniah Kingsley bought the house where he lived with his African wife, Anta Madgigine Jai. Jai was a servant. In 1806 Kingsley bought her freedom in Cuba and married her. According to historical records, Kingsley was responsible for Jai and her children’s freedom in 1811.

Because the Spanish crown’s laws favored the family, their business thrived, with Jai working closely with Kingsley in farm management. Jai supervised the ownership of land and slaves, but things changed when the United States purchased Florida state.

The laws passed by the United States government in 1821 prohibited slaves and free blacks from owning property and other rights that they had under the Spanish crown. Despite having slaves working for him, Kingsley fought hard against the restrictive laws enacted by the United States authorities, arguing that people should be respected based on their skills and abilities, not their race.

He fought against laws that restricted the civil liberties of enslaved people and wrote a treatise on the subject. When local authorities and lawmakers were adamant about the stance he advocated, he and his wife left Florida for Haiti in 1830.

However, before leaving the plantation, they freed 50 slaves. He died in 1843, leaving Jai the legal right to his fortune and property. Jai died in the 1870s, long after she had returned to Florida.

The National Park Service has designated the Kingsley Plantation House as a historical site, and it is now part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. The National Park Service is responsible for the preservation of the house, the kitchen, and the thousands of acres left by the Kingsleys.

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