1765 – 1843
Who was Zephaniah Kingsley?
Zephaniah Kingsley, Jr. was a plantation owner, slave trader, and merchant who built several plantations in the Spanish colony of Florida in what is now Jacksonville. A plantation he owned and lived at for 25 years is preserved as Kingsley Plantation, part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve that is run by the United States National Park Service.
Kingsley was a relatively lenient slave owner who gave his slaves the opportunity to earn their freedom. He married a total of four women in a polygamous relationship. His first wife, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, was thirteen years old when Kingsley purchased her. He later charged her with running his plantation when he was away on business. His interracial family and his business interests caused Kingsley to be heavily invested in the Spanish system of slavery, which recognized a class of free people of color and allowed multi-racial children to inherit property.
Kingsley became involved in politics when control of the Florida colony passed from Spain to the United States, and he attempted to persuade the new territorial government to maintain the status of the free black population. When this did not come to fruition, he wrote a treatise that defended a system of slavery in 1828 that would allow slaves to purchase their freedom and give rights to free blacks and mixed-race people. When faced with American laws that forbade interracial marriage, Kingsley relocated his family to Haiti between 1835 and 1837. After his death, his estate was the subject of dispute between Anna Jai and other members of Kingsley's family.
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