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The Life of Anna Kingsley

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Anna Kingsley lived a life in the developing "new world" that few slaves would have a
chance to experience. Captured at a young age, she was brought to Havana, Cuba and sold on
the slave market. She then became the mistress of the plantation of the man who had purchased
her, raised a family for the two of them, and later went on to become emancipated and come to
own a sizable portion of land herself. Anna's story is one of hope to come from the early years
of America as the majority of slaves were treated as objects for their owners' use rather than the
people they really were. Anna, however, had the good fortune to be picked up by a man who
treated her well and understood she was more than just some slave girl and she was able to make
a successful life for herself within Spain's realm.
Born in 1793, Anta Majigeen Ndiaya lived in a war-torn section of West Africa which is
well known for its involvement in the trade of unwillingly captured slaves. Anta was among
these slaves to be captured in 1806 when she was roughly 13 years old. She then traveled aboard
a slaver's ship across the Atlantic Ocean to Cuba, where she was later displayed for sale that year
in Havana. In Havana she was found by a slave trader and merchant of Spanish Florida named
Zephaniah Kingsley from whom she gets her name. When she was purchased, Zephaniah was
more than thirty years older than she was, but despite this they were married through a traditional
African ceremony. The fact that Zephaniah opted for the African ceremony indicates how much
respect he had for her already, choosing to follow her customs rather than the familiar ones of his
own country. From here, they travelled north toward his plantation in Florida.
Anna travelled with Zephaniah up the eastern coast of Florida to their new life together at
his plantation. Stopping over in St. Augustine, they sailed up the St. Johns River to an inlet
which is now named Doctors Lake where the dock connected to his plantation, Laurel Grove,
had been constructed. Anna Kingsley was already pregnant with Zephaniah's child by the time
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they arrived at Laurel Grove where Zephaniah separated Anna from the rest of the slaves to stay
in the owner's house with him rather than in the slave quarters. Over the passing years Anna
would give birth to three children: George in June of 1807; Martha in July of 1809; and Mary in
February of 1811. The years were good to Laurel Grove, and Anna helped with the running of
the plantation as well as raising their children. Zephaniah trusted Anna to represent him at the
plantation in his absence, an in 1811 granted Anna and their children legal emancipation which
would become very important in the coming years.
With Anna's experience around the plantation, and as a free woman, Anna petitioned the
Spanish government for land of her own in 1813 so that she could start a farm herself. The
Spanish government granted her request, entitling her to 5 acres across the river from Laurel
Grove. She purchased the goods she required to begin her operations as well as 12 slaves and
started to pursue her own farm's success. However, in that same year Zephaniah was kidnapped
by American patriots and held against his will until he would endorse the Patriot Rebellion, a
movement by Americans to annex Florida to the United States. Zephaniah was later released,
and fled to an unknown location until he was able to reunite with Anna. These Americans, with
the assistance of the Creek Indians who they were supplying, raided many towns and plantations
in Spanish Florida, capturing blacks and sending them north into slavery in the Americas
regardless of their status in Florida. Because of this, when the Patriots took Laurel Grove and 41
of its slaves, Anna negotiated with the Spanish for her escape along with her three children and
as many slaves as she could. First, with the Spanish watching, she burned down the Kingsley
plantation, then requested to return to her own homestead which she burned as well to ensure
that the American patriots could not continue using her or her husband's property to facilitate
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their operations in the area. Following the war, the Spanish government would award Anna 350
acres of land for her patriotic actions that day.
In 1814, Zephaniah purchased a new plantation near the mouth of the St. Johns River on
Fort George Island. The owner's house was looted and vandalized and every other structure that
had one stood was completely destroyed. While new buildings were being erected, the Kingsley
family settled in between Fernandina and Fort George Island while Zephaniah was away on
business and Anna oversaw the operations of the plantation. In the 1820's, they had a separate
kitchen and upstairs room added and connected to the owner's house by covered walkway which
was called the "Ma'am Anna House" where Anna and the children lived as is customary in
traditional African situations of polygamous marriage as Zephaniah took three move wives, all
slaves, while they lived on Fort George Island. Both "Ma'am Anna House" and the thirty-two
slave cabins built on the property were constructed to some degree of a material called "tabby."
Tabby is a durable substance of oyster shell and limestone with water and sand, which historians
speculate may have been taught to the builders by Anna herself since it is a common practice in
West Africa. Also, the thirty-two slave cabins were arranged in a semi-circular pattern which
was quite bizarre in the south at that time. It has also been suggested that Anna may have
suggested this as well, since it is similar to the traditional layout of many African villages. Both
of these ideas further display Anna's high status around the Kingsley plantations and her
involvement in the development and running of them.
Anna Kingsley gave birth to her fourth son in 1824 and they named him John. He had
been baptized in a Catholic ceremony along with the child of another one of Zephaniah's wives.
It was also around this time that Anna befriended Susan L'Engle, a white woman who was very
impressed by Anna and called her "the African princess." It was Susan L'Engle's opinion that
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Anna was very lonely at the plantation during these days, but her work between the children and
the plantation itself kept her very busy at all times.
In 1822, Spain ceded control of Florida to the United States of America and the new state
government enacted stricter and stricter ordinances to segregate the races living in Florida. The
restrictions imposed against blacks increased even more following Nat Turner's Rebellion of
1831 and Zephaniah was extremely discontent with the new laws. He transferred his belongings
to his and Anna's three eldest children and moved to Haiti in 1835. In 1838, Anna, her youngest
son, and several dozen slaves moved with Anna to Haiti as well to join Zephaniah where they
purchased the land for and started a new plantation which he named Mayorasgo de Koka.
Slavery, however, was prohibited in Haiti, and Zephaniah converted his slaved into indentured
servants and allowed them to earn their own freedom following nine years of service. Their new
lives in Haiti were very prosperous. In 1843, at the age of 78, Zephaniah died on his way to New
York to conduct business. His death was recorded in New York and that is where he was buried
as well. His will left the majority of his estate to his wives and children, which would be
disputed.
Among the many laws passed in Florida to limit and segregate the races, one of which
was a provision which forbade mixed race children from being able to inherit property. Along
with this, Florida did not recognize polygamous or interracial marriages, both of which existed in
the Kingsley family, as legal. In the year following Zephaniah's death, his sister Martha
attempted to contest his will as "defective and invalid" under these provisions and claimed that
Anna and Zephaniah's other wives moved to Haiti on impulse and had abandoned the Kingsley
properties. Because of Martha's actions, Anna returned to Florida in 1946 to take part in the
Kingsley estate defense . In the end, the court upheld the treaty signed between the United
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States and Spain upon Florida's secession which stated that all free blacks born before 1822 in
Florida would be entitled to the same legal privileges they had as when Spain had controlled
Florida. On top of this, Anna requested and was approved the ownership of the slaves which had
been moved to the San Jose plantation when the family had left for Haiti.
With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Anna and her children became Union
sympathizers and when Union soldiers captured Jacksonville in 1862 she and many other free
blacks were evacuated out of harm's way. She returned the following year in 1863 to be close to
her daughters, and at the age of 77 she died in 1870.
Anta Majigeen Ndiaya, later named Anna Kingsley, led a full life in Spanish Florida and
America despite the fact that she had been sold into slavery at a young age. She was lucky in
that she had been purchased by a man who selected her to be his wife and who recognized her
capabilities and did not wish to oppress her. For a black person in early America, she lived what
few experienced, and many would have considered a fantasy. Given her situation and what she
was able to make from it however, for somebody who started as a slave she lived the closest
thing possible to the "American Dream." Perhaps even more so than many of the free immigrants
in the northern states had.




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Works Cited


(2007, Aug. 8 ). In Timucuan Ecological and Historic. (Anna Kingsley: A Free Woman)
Retrieved Feb. 18, 2011, from
http://www.nps.gov/timu/historyculture/kp_anna_freewoman.htm

(2007, Feb. 28 ). In Puerto Plata and Zephaniah Kingsley. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2011, from
http://zephaniaskingsly.blogspot.com/2007/02/anna-kingsley-free-woman.html

(2010, Nov. 10 ). In Timucuan Ecological and Historic. (Anna Kingsley's Story) Retrieved Feb.
18, 2011, from http://www.nps.gov/timu/historyculture/kp_annakingsley.htm

(2010, Oct. 17 ). In Timucuan Ecological and Historic. (Kingsley Moves to Florida)
Retrieved Feb. 18, 2011, from
http://www.nps.gov/timu/historyculture/kp_zk_moves_to_florida.htm

(2010, Sep. 28 ). In Timucuan Ecological and Historic. (Kingsley Family and Society)
Retrieved Feb. 18, 2011, from
http://www.nps.gov/timu/historyculture/kp_family_society.htm

Gould, V. (2004). Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation
Slaveowner.. Journal of American History, the, 91 (1), pp. 230-230.

Landers, J. (1996). New History of Florida, the. ( Michael. Gannon, Ed.). University Press of
Florida.

Schafer, D. L. (1997). Anna Kingsley. (Vol. 1, Ed.). St. Augustine, FL: St. Augustine Historical
Society.