After the 1680s, a substantial number of South Carolina’s slaves escaped to freedom in Florida where they were resettled in the first free black community in the territorial United States, Fort Mosť. Yet, what were the circumstances that provided them the opportunity to flee? This project suggests that there was a correlation between environmental events in Carolina and the slaves’ successful flight across the frontier. One such period of crisis occurred in 1738-1740, when Carolina suffered an outbreak of epidemics. A study of local conditions on the frontier suggests that the epidemics were related to weather factors Disaster studies further assert that responses by authorities lead to reactions among the subaltern ranks. One of the most common reactions from lower orders is to capitalize on the vacuum in power generated by crisis and press their advantage, asking for and often gaining concessions and even freedom. Indecision among Carolina’s elites led to predictable reactions within the slave population who used the crisis to escape to Spanish Florida. The imperial responses to the Spanish sanctuary policy resulted in repeated periods of warfare between Britain and Spain for the remainder of the century.
See more of: AHA Sessions