Special | Secrets of Spanish Florida - Why Slaves Escaped to Florida for Asylum

In the late 1600s, Colonial Spanish Florida began granting freedom to slaves who said they were willing to convert to Catholicism.

Secrets of Spanish Florida premieres Tuesday, December 26 at 9/8c on PBS (check local listings).

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Ever since the late 1600s, Spanish Florida was becoming a sanctuary for African slaves who fled from British plantations.

Long before there was an underground railroad that ran north, there was an underground railroad that ran south La Florida started granting asylum to slaves after a small group escaped by canoe from the Carolinas in 1687. They asked governor Diego de Quiroga for asylum saying they wanted to become members of the true faith: Catholicism.

the Spanish who had founded la Florida in part to convert the new world to Christianity could hardly refuse.

King Charles II decreed that because these people had adopted the catholic doctrine they should all be set free and given anything they needed.

-And of course that then initiates waves of runaway slaves from the Carolinas, from Virginia- you see in the record some slaves from as far as far north as New York the British were very much afraid of Spain's sovereignty in Florida accepting people and allowing them to gain their freedom.

In fact, Spain's open-door policy was not just a vehicle to save more souls for the Catholic Church, it was also a way to destabilize the plantation economy of the British colonies. -The planters were particularly concerned that if waves of runaway slaves make it to St. Augustine all that's going to do is encourage more runaway slaves and that will in the end dismantle the entire system.