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- Zephaniah Kingsley was a wealthy planter and slave owner in northeast Florida. His heirs included his wife, a freed slave named Anna M. J. Kingsley, and their children. Kingsley was both a defender of slavery and an activist for the legal rights of free blacks. Born in Bristol, England, in 1765, Kingsley moved to Charleston, South Carolina, then a British colony, in 1770. By the 1790s, Kingsley was active in maritime commerce, including the slave trade. In 1803, he became a citizen of Spanish Florida and began acquiring land in northeast Florida. In 1806, Kingsley purchased, in Havana, Cuba, a teenager from the Jolof region of Senegal in West Africa named Anta Majigeen Ndiaye; he subsequently freed her and made her his wife: Anna Kingsley. When the United States took control of Florida from Spain in 1821, it agreed to honor the rights of the territory’s free blacks. Over the next three decades, however, state and local laws and customs slowly eroded the rights of these U.S. citizens. By the 1840s and 1850s, many free blacks were forced into slavery. By the end of his life, Kingsley was embittered by the racial discrimination practiced in Florida’s antebellum society and concerned over the fate of his wife and children. Fearing for the safety of his family in Florida, Kingsley made preparations to send his wife and children to Haiti, and by 1838, Anna and her children were residents of Haiti. In this will, Kingsley sought to ensure the freedom and financial well-being of the children he had by various women (slave and free), as well as of his wife. He gave instructions that the slave families he owned not be separated without their consent, that his slaves be given the privilege of buying their freedom at half their respective values, and that they be given the opportunity to go to Haiti if they could not remain free in Florida.
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