Free Juneteenth Month Film Prospect Bluff and the Culture of Freedom Spotlights FL. Maroon Colony of Freed Black Slaves

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Prospect Bluff and the Culture of FreedomGrace Arts FL

Do you know the amazing story of Prospect Bluff, a colony of freed black slaves in the 1800s?

Two hundred years ago, a Fort overlooking the Apalachicola River was home to what historians say was the largest thriving community of freed slaves in North America at the time.

Prospect Bluff and the Culture of Freedom, a short film presented by Grace Arts Fl, a Florida cultural organization, brings to life the stories of the people of the Fort at Prospect Bluff. The Free Film Screening will be held on June 30th at 7:30 PM. at the L.A. Lee YMCA/Mizell Community Center 1409 Northwest 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311.

The ten-minute documentary ‘rough cut’ screening is part of a mobile film exhibit about Florida folk culture funded by the Florida Historical Resources Board. The full exhibit of ten micro-documentary films can be viewed in December 2022. Complete contact information to be notified of the next exhibit.

Colonel Edward Nicolls, a British military officer with a fierce reputation as a warrior and a fiery abolitionist, planned to continue the War of 1812 by amassing forces to attack the burgeoning American nation once again. The Fort at Prospect Bluff (named for its enviable position along the Apalachicola River) was a fortress established by Nicolls in the wild outback of Spanish Florida and became a community of emancipated slaves and indigenous fighters enlisted as part of the First Battalion of the Royal Colonial Marines.

Word spread far and wide that military service guaranteed freedom as subjects of the British government. Maroon families of men, women, and children settled alongside Creek Red Sticks and Seminoles near the impressive fort stockade, a deep moat, and well-stocked artillery. “They did not seek to gain their freedom through a violent assault on the institution of slavery and they were not a desperate band barely surviving on the outskirts of plantation society; they had achieved their freedom and intended to distance themselves as far as they could from the prior condition of enslavement.” (Nathaniel Millet, ‘The Maroons of Prospect Bluff’)

At Prospect Bluff there were Africans, Spanish Creoles from both coasts of Florida, Cuban and Spanish empire blacks, French colonial fugitives, English-speaking slaves from America and Anglo Caribbean, and independent maroons living among the southeastern hemisphere’s indigenous peoples. Many languages were spoken fluently.

Prosperity and a culture of freedom defined Prospect Bluff. In two short years, the Negro Fort (named by detractors who feared the fort’s resources and black resistance) had a system of government with educated leaders who maintained standards of justice and managed growing trade routes. Unlike most remote hidden maroon communities of the time, the Fort's location and purpose were well known to Americans, Spanish, British and tribal nations, a bastion of security along the southern route to freedom now known as the ‘Saltwater Railroad.’

Dale Cox, Florida resident and descendent of a Yuchi Indian and Lower Creek warrior Efau Emathla whose Red Stick ancestors came to Prospect Bluff to join the British in the summer of 1814, contributed a great deal to the film. He explained that the Fort challenged a new nation reliant on slavery, Spanish sovereignty, and indigenous groups friendly to the Americans as it became a free colony thriving under black management.

In July 1816 after weeks of fighting, a deadly cannonball blast destroyed the fort killing women, men, and children instantly. Pulled from the mud injured, a few survivors who carried the culture of freedom lived at Prospect Bluff to Cuba, the Bahamas, and beyond. Mary Ashley and a few other maroon women, who were re-enslaved and transported to Cuba bravely petitioned the Spanish Governor to be recognized as free British subjects guaranteed in the papers provided by Nicolls.

Dancer, Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez, a retired Miami City Ballet Principal and Afro-Cuban American born in Cuba, interprets through dance the film history via recordings c/o Lomax Family Collections and Library of Congress including the ‘Cuban Song’ chanted by Bahamian Black Seminole, Felix MacNeil, a descendant of the famed Seminole Chief ‘Bowlegs’ (1935 when Alan Lomax and Zora Neale Hurston traveled to the Bahamas to archive African American folk music for the W.P.A.) remixed by Brooklyn Artists, The Brass King and Maia Nau; and a Negro spiritual “No More Trouble,” sung by a group of women prisoners at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, also recorded by Alan Lomax with his father, John A. Lomax (April 1936) remastered by Miami Artist Dario Adames.

Jonathan Axler, Programs and Education Coordinator at the Historic Stranahan House Museum will discuss the lesser-known history of Fort Lauderdale from 1793–1821. Because we know Maroon survivors of the Fort’s Destruction made their way south eventually to what would become Miami and Key Biscayne it’s likely that some would have encountered people living in what would become Fort Lauderdale. That settlement that would become known as the city of Fort Lauderdale had a number of very interesting individuals who had loyalist leanings to Britain and connections to the emerging Seminole nation and Caribbean immigrants.

The film was made through a grant from the Florida Historical Resources Board and the screening event at Victory Black Box Theatre is funded in part through a generous grant by PNC Arts Alive grant program and the Broward County Cultural Division.

What: Free Screening of Prospect Bluff and The Culture of Freedom

Where: L.A. Lee YMCA/Mizell Community Center 1409 Northwest 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311

Thu, June 30, 2022

7:30 PM — 9:30 PM EDT

RSVP to attend on Eventbrite

More Information: Contact Clare Vickery of Grace Arts, FL

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Stories curated by Staff & Senior Writer Tandaleya Wilder, National Sports, Entertainment, Tech Commentator and Founder of She Got Game Media.

Miami, FL

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