Since my USAF (United States Air Force) cousin went on a short deployment to Poland to assist NATO forces in protecting Europe’s security by staring from afar into the abyss of the Russian aggression on Ukraine, I stepped into the role of an auxiliary parent and represented the family at her son’s high school graduation in Jacksonville, Florida. Looking for an adventure, I decided to camp at the Little Talbot Island State Park just a few miles outside of the city. As the time of my adventure came closer, I became apprehensive about the heat, insects, and the general safety of solo camping in the Florida swamp, so I pivoted from tent camping into car camping. Laying down backseats of my car, I transformed my Nissan Pathfinder into a giant bed or a little house with a one-inch memory foam mattress, pillows, blankets, lanterns and a cooler (serving as a refrigerator). Climate control was provided by running my car’s engine all night allowing the vent to blow exquisite cool air. As an added safety measure, I plugged Carbon Monoxide detector into the 120V outlet that Nissan engineers conveniently installed in the back console of the car. I have never car camped before but many of my friends found it a convenient way to explore unknown areas and by doing so simplified packing and unpacking. When I stepped out at my designated camp side number 21, I was immediately accosted by swarms of mosquitos, I smiled to myself knowing that sleeping safely inside of a locked car would protect me both from uninvited mosquitos and other potentially dangerous elements. I crawled into the back of the car, fiddled with the controls to figure out how to turn off day-time running lights and how to dim the equipment panel then started an audio book on my phone which was connected to the car speakers via Bluetooth; the sound of the orator pleasantly surrounded me. Ah, what a luxury, it was almost like glamping. Unfortunately, I woke up in the middle of the night; the one-inch memory foam pad was comfortable for a while but after a few hours various creases in the underlying hard plastic were pocking at me and I was no longer blissfully comfortable. Mental note, if I ever do this again, a thicker mattress is a must.
Graduation was scheduled for 5:00 PM the next day allowing me free time to explore local area. Campground host recommended visiting Fort George Island only a few miles away with a historic Kingsley Plantation managed by the National Park Service and offering an immersive experience, a walking tour complemented with an audio presentation: https://www.nps.gov/timu/learn/photosmultimedia/audio-tour.htm .
I arrived at the site of Kingsley Plantation; entered the area through the middle of semi-circularly placed slave huts and proceeded to a parking lot located just in front of the plantation house. I downloaded the audio tour to my phone, inserted Bluetooth headphones into my ears and begun my adventure. Right from the start it was not what I expected to hear. Zephaniah Kingsley, a white former slave trader, owned the plantation jointly with his emancipated African wife, formerly a slave herself but later a slave owner. What? Rewind, play again. Zephaniah purchased thirteen-year-old Anne Madgigine Jai at a slave market in Cuba, married her and “honored her in all respects as his wife.” Five years later he emancipated Anne and their three kids so that she was no longer his property. Wow! I was about to listen to a history lesson unlike anything that I have heard before. In Zephaniah’s words, Anne was capable and managed the affairs of the plantation well including the slaves. Anne and Zephaniah had numerous mixed-race children and so did his other wives. What? Rewind, play again. Zephaniah had four African wives, all emancipated slaves. Anne had no issue with that, where she came from polygamy was common, as long as the husband provided fairy for his wives no one minded. Maybe not such a crazy idea, many wives today wish for an occasional relief from their husbands.
When established, Kingsley plantation operated under Spanish laws which allowed for slavery but in a significantly different way than the English-based law. Spanish slavery was not a permanent condition based on race but a condition related to class and wealth. Under Spanish rule there were three casts: slaves, free people of color, and whites. Slaves were considered humans with souls and intelligence and could be emancipated by their owner or they could purchase their freedom. Zephaniah allowed his slaves to purchase their freedom for half of their market value. When Florida came under United States law with its two-cast system based strictly on race where Africans were always property of a white man, new laws came into place affecting personal liberties, property ownership, and inheritance rights. The Kingsley family decided to emigrate to Haiti the only free black republic at the time. The irony of the story is that in her last will and testament Anne elected to sell her four young slaves, she designated profits of the sale to go to her children. What? Rewind, play again. This is certainly not what I expected. The audio tour felt so morally convoluted, challenging most of the modern notions of how we should feel and think about slavery. Slaves at the Kingsley estate owned fire arms. After completing their tasks, they could perform other work for hire and retain profits. Not to say that Kingsley plantation was a modern utopia of liberties, not at all, but in some way the philosophy was not too remote from our modern corporate structure.
Today no one is physically hijacked, we enter into the modern corporate machinery by choice. We select our jobs or professions but by doing so we acquire debt and, in some way, become indentured to the industry. We work for the benefit of corporate shareholders. Everyone is in business of buying their freedom, the executives always find a better way to get richer and establish their liberty sooner. Some of us are fortunate enough to buy our freedom ahead of our colleagues but for the most part we achieve financial independence at the retirement age defined by social norms and the laws of our land. Modern corporations seem to follow the Kingsley methodology for productive labor. Significant profits are realized by maintaining a balance between coercion, control, fear, and rewards. After filling their own coffers and the pockets of the executives, corporations allow employees to make their own money until an individual can buy their freedom and freedom for their family and so the modern slavery continues.