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Celebrate Black History Month at these Florida State Parks

Florida's state parks encourage people to visit this February and celebrate the achievements and advancements of African Americans while recognizing the many ways they have enriched Florida's communities, culture and history.

“Florida’s state parks are proud to offer interpretative programs that highlight’s Florida history,” Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione said in a recent DEP press release. “From art exhibits and to living history reenactments to tours of the Cape Florida lighthouse, visitors are invited to learn more at Florida’s state parks.”

Fort Mose Historic State Park in St. Augustine was the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in the United States. Florida's governor in 1738 chartered the settlement as Fort Mose for Africans fleeing slavery. Once established, the colony continued serving as a sanctuary for those seeking freedom for the next quarter of a century. The story is depicted on interpretive panels throughout the park and replicas of a chosa (cooking hut), a small historic garden and barca chata (small Spanish flat boat) offer a glimpse into life at that time. More information about the park can be found at this website.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in Cross Creek is the homestead of the Pulitzer prize winning author of The Yearling. The cracker style home and farm has been restored and preserved as it was when she lived there. At one time African Americans were living in small tenant houses on the property. Rawlings and Zora Neale Hurston would exchange letters discussing how the Reconstruction in the rural south was changing racial relationships. Visitors to the park can tour the homestead Thursdays through Sundays. For more information visit the park website.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne was one of the earliest locations for the Underground Railroad. Before the lighthouse was built the island served as a meeting place for runaway slaves and Black Seminoles awaiting escape via sea captains or board dugouts to safety across the Gulf Stream in the British Bahamas. In September 2004, Cape Florida was designated a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site. For more information about this park visit the state park website.

For more information about Black History Month visit the Association for the Study of African American Life and History website.