Fort Mose Jazz & Blues Series raises over $50K

Proceeds will support construction of fort representation and more


The Fort Mose Jazz & Blues Series welcomed 3,000 people from across the country to Fort Mose State Park between Feb. 18 and 26. Fort Mose is the site of the first legally sanctioned free Black settlement in what is now the United States.

Over the course of the two weekends, jazz and blues fans witnessed five exceptional performances and $51,972 was raised in support of Fort Mose Historical Society’s ongoing efforts of building an on-site fort representation, and development of interpretive resources.

The Fort Mose Jazz & Blues Series hosted performances from nationally recognized, award-winning artists including two-time Grammy Award-winning jazz artist Gregory Porter, the legendary 18-time Grammy Award-winning Count Basie Orchestra, breakout Americana and roots singer-songwriter Amythyst Kiah, New Orleans’ deep-groove R&B and jazz group Tank and the Bangas, and jazz and blues prodigy Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

“To see this series come to life in such a successful way is incredibly gratifying,” said Gabriel Pellicer, general manager of the St. Johns County Cultural Events Division. “Through the support of St. Johns County staff, the Fort Mose Historical Society, and our series partners, we were able to help shine light on the historical significance of Fort Mose to American history, and ultimately assist the society with their ongoing efforts. We’re really just thrilled with the outcome.”

In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered the settlement of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, or Fort Mose for short, as a place for formerly enslaved people fleeing from the English colonies in the Carolinas and Georgia.

Over the next 25 years, Fort Mose and Spanish St. Augustine became a sanctuary for Africans seeking liberation from slavery amid a large-scale power struggle between European nations in the New World.

In 1994, Fort Mose Historic State Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

“The marriage of jazz, blues and history at Fort Mose Historic State Park was an overwhelming success during the two weekends in February and we’d like to thank the community and the partnership with the St. Johns County Cultural Events Division,’’ said Charles Ellis, president of the Fort Mose Historical Society. “Because of the concert series, more people from near and far are now aware of the remarkable Fort Mose story and the journey of enslaved people fleeing British control in the Carolinas to St. Augustine in search of their freedom.”

“The lights, sights, sounds and thousands of concert fans under the grand old oak trees brought to life the Fort Mose Historic State Park like never before,’’ said Michael Watkins, manager of Fort Mose and Anastasia State Parks. “For two weekends in February, the Fort told its story and shined a light on the gem that it is.”

In tandem with the success of the Fort Mose Jazz & Blues Series, The Florida State Parks Foundation announced on Feb. 28 that Fort Mose Historic State Park will be awarded a $933,500 grant from the Florida African American Cultural and Historical Grants Program. The purpose of the grant program is to provide funding for construction projects at facilities in Florida that highlight the contributions, culture or history of African-Americans.

In addition to the grant, the Florida State Parks Foundation and Fort Mose Historical Society secured $250,000 in matching funds thanks to the generous support of the Florida Park Service, the Jacksonville Jaguar Foundation, Florida Blue, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, St. Johns County and Mark Bailey.

The series was produced by the St. Johns County Cultural Events Division, which operates The St. Augustine Amphitheatre and Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, with support from St. Johns County Tourist Development Council, St. Augustine Distillery, St. Johns Cultural Council, Fort Mose Historical Society and Flying Saucer Presents.