Monday, January 6, 2014

Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. and the Atlantic World: Slave Trader, Plantation Owner, Emancipator


Daniel L. Schafer

University Press of Florida, 2013

     If you have lived in northeast Florida long enough, there is no doubt you have heard of or perhaps even visited Kingsley Plantation. It is located on Fort George Island and is managed by the National Park Service as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. University of North Florida retired professor Daniel Schafer has worked on the story of the Kingsley Plantation inhabitants for many years. At long last, this major work was published this past November based on life of Zephaniah Kingsley. Previously, he wrote the biography of Anna Kingsley, Zephaniah's wife. The Kingsley's lived at Kingsley Planation from 1813-1849.  I was very happy to finally have my copy and thought I would review it here for you.

       Zephaniah Kingsley is a man of controversy. He is an Atlantic slave trader, a believer in paths to freedom from slavery, and was the head of a large polygamous mixed-race family. The life narrative of Zephaniah Kingsley (1765-1843) is a story which not only spans the early history of northeast Florida, but much, much more on an Atlantic scale, as the title implies. Scholars and readers alike can learn about the causations and correlations around the Revolutionary War,  Patriot War, and the Atlantic Slave Trade. Schafer weaves the tale of Kingsley's life in painstaking detail based on thorough knowledge of primary and secondary sources. Schafer is explicit in his descriptions of shipping in the West Indies and the Sea Islands, including the port cities of Charleston, Savannah, and Wilmington. Farming techniques and yields from this historical period are also described for the reader. Kingsley's own writings are also featured, including his interview with New York abolitionist Lydia Child, and his Treatise on the Patriarchal System of Society.  Archaeological excavations undertaken by University of Florida's Dr. James Davidson at Kingsley Plantation are also brought to light. There's even a surprising connection to the Maple Leaf shipwreck in the St. John's River!

In order not to give too much away, let's just say that I learned a lot more about history with this read and thoroughly enjoyed the book. I highly recommend it.

To buy Daniel Schafer's books visit the University Press of Florida.

For more about the archaeology at Kingsley Plantation on the FPAN Blog, search Kingsley Plantation or start with this post by Amber Weiss.

For more information about Kingsley Plantation or to plan your visit, go to the Timucuan Ecological and Heritage Preserve website.

Text: Jen Knutson, University of West Florida Historical Archaeology Graduate Student

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