Zephaniah Kingsley

Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. (December 4, 1765 – September 14, 1843), a Quaker born in England who moved as a child with his family to South Carolina, became a planter, slave trader, and merchant who built several plantations in the Spanish colony of Florida in what is now Jacksonville, Florida. He served on the Florida Territorial Council after Florida was acquired by the United States in 1821. Kingsley Plantation, which he owned and where he lived for 25 years, has been preserved as part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, run by the United States National Park Service.

Kingsley was a relatively lenient slaveholder, who allowed his slaves the opportunity to be hired out and earn their freedom. He took four enslaved African women as common-law wives, practicing polygamy. His first wife, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, was 13 years old when Kingsley purchased her in Havana. He said that he had married her, which he never said of his three other common-law wives. He emancipated Anna Jai when she turned 18, and trusted her with running his plantation when he was away on business. He had a total of nine mixed-race children with his wives. He educated his children to high standards and worked to ensure he could settle his estate on them and his wives.

His interracial family and his business interests resulted in Kingsley being deeply invested in the Spanish system of slavery and society. As in the French colonies, certain rights were provided to a class of free people of color, and multiracial natural children were allowed to inherit property from white fathers. "In the Spanish Floridas free people of color ... enjoyed tremendously elevated status when compared to virtually any other person of African descent in North America."

Kingsley became involved in politics when control of the Florida colony passed in 1821 from Spain to the United States. He tried to persuade the new territorial government to maintain the special status of the population of free people of color, who were mostly multi-racial. He was unsuccessful in this effort, and in 1828 he published a pamphlet that defended a system of slavery that would allow slaves to purchase their freedom, and give rights to free blacks and free people of color. Faced with American laws that forbade interracial marriage, and discouraged "free people of color" (see Free black#Free negroes unwelcome) being allowed to stay or settle in the state, between 1835 and 1837, Kingsley relocated his large family to Haiti. (At that time it controlled part of what is today the Dominican Republic.) After his death, his estate in Florida was the subject of dispute between his widow Anna Jai and other members of Kingsley's family, but she was successful in gaining the estate he had bequeathed to her. Provided by Wikipedia