African American News and Genealogy

This site was developed to provide you with news that relates to African American Genealogy, History and News. Please feel free to forward this link to others. I hope you enjoy this site and good luck with your research! Cheers, Kenyatta D. Berry Managing Director

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The indigo dye of slavery

SILVER DONALD CAMERON ON A CHILLY, windy day, Magnus turned off the Intracoastal Waterway into the Fort George River, not far north of Jacksonville. Her destination was the Kingsley Plantation, the oldest plantation house in Florida, now part of a large National Park. Like the adjoining sections of Georgia and South Carolina, this part of Florida is a maze of shallow, twisting creeks, mudbanks and islets. We found the plantation standing on a bluff overlooking the narrow river, with an extensive view across the endless grassy brown marshes to other wooded bluffs and islands. The plantation gets its name from Zephaniah Kingsley, who owned it from 1814 to 1837, when Florida was a royal Spanish colony. The commercial crops raised here included cotton, sugar cane and indigo, which yielded a prized blue dye. To produce it, slaves crushed and fermented the indigo plant in wooden vats, then added catalysts like limewater and urine. Once the water evaporated from this nasty brew, the caked dye remained. The same is true of slavery. Zephaniah Kingsley, for instance, was an unusually benevolent slave owner. In 1806, in Cuba, he had purchased a 13-year-old Senegalese slave girl named Anta Madgigine Jai, known as "Anna," with whom he eventually had four children. After Anna turned 18, he freed her and their children, and married her. His plantation was worked on the "task" system; after each day’s assigned tasks were done, the slaves were free to hunt, fish, sew or tend the kitchen gardens in which they grew African foods like yams, okra and eggplant. He ultimately freed all his slaves. Full Story:


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