The Kingsley slave quarters.
Anna Kingsley: Celebrated as a Free Woman
On June 18, 1793, African plantation owner, abolitionist, and former slave Anna Kingsley was born.
Born Anna Madgigine Jai in Senegal, she was captured in her native country in 1806 when she was 13 years old. Brought to Florida, then a Spanish colony, she was sold to Zephaniah Kingsley, a slave trader and maritime merchant; she worked on his plantation in northeast Florida.
In 1811, Zephaniah Kingsley married Anna and allowed for her freedom; they had four children. She later became the manager of the plantation, a position she held for 25 years. Her husband went on record saying that she “could carry on all the affairs of the plantation in my absence as well as I could myself.”
After Spain sold Florida to the United States in 1819, life grew difficult. U.S. laws concerning freed Blacks were far more restrictive than those of Spain, and Kingsley’s status as a freed slave and landowner were threatened. In addition to those difficulties, her interracial marriage was unacceptable in the new state of Florida. As a result, the Kingsleys fled to Haiti, where they ran another plantation and created a colony for free blacks.
After her husband’s death in 1843, Kingsley returned to Florida, where she fought the courts to claim the land that was left to her and her children in his will. After a difficult court battle (some of his white relatives had contested her claim), Kingsley won the right to her inheritance. Her skill at running a plantation and her battle for property rights made her a celebrated and influential figure in the free Black community of northern Florida. Anna Kingsley died in 1870.