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Anta Majigeen Ndiaye

Anta Majigeen Ndiaye, later known as Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, was a former slave brought to Florida in the early 1800s who became a major slave owner after marrying her former master, Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. After Kingsley’s death, Anna inherited his substantial property holdings after a drawn-out legal battle.
 
Anta Majigeen Ndiaye was likely born in 1793 in the kingdom of Jolof in what is today central Senegal. Some accounts both from Jolof and from those who knew her in Florida suggest that she may have been a princess. Others believe her father was a member of the royal family who unsuccessfully challenged for the Jolof throne.
 
Historians believe that Anta was captured during a raid of the Jolof kingdom in 1806. While it is  not exactly known when she was captured, or what ship brought her to the Americas, it is known that she arrived in Cuba in 1806. In late September or early October, Anta was sold at auction to Zephaniah Kingsley, a slave trader and planter in the province of Spanish Florida. On October 24, Kingsley’s ship, the Esther, docked in the port of St. Augustine, where he registered Anta and two other new slaves with the Florida provincial government. In the Americas, Anta’s name was changed to Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley.
 
It is unclear, but it seems possible that Zephaniah Kingsley married the thirteen-year-old Anna before leaving Cuba. Regardless, by the time they arrived at Laurel Grove Plantation, Kingsley’s home south of present-day Jacksonville, Anna was pregnant with his child and was to live in his house as his wife. Between 1806 and 1811, Zephaniah and Anna Kingsley had three children in total: George, Martha, and Mary. On March 4, 1811, soon after Mary’s birth, Zephaniah emancipated Anna and their three children. Zephaniah’s business ventures across the Caribbean and the east coast of the United States meant he was rarely at home, and so Anna managed the plantation in his absence. Zephaniah had several other slave “wives” with whom he fathered many children, but Anna was the only one who lived in the house. Zephaniah used the term “wife,” but there are no written records of official marriages,
 
In 1812, the year after gaining her freedom, Anna moved across the St. John’s River and built a home on five acres granted to her by the Spanish government. She continued to manage Lauren Grove, her husband’s plantation. During the Patriot Rebellion, pro-U.S. settlers,with the support of the U.S. government, rebelled against the Spanish crown. Zephaniah Kingsley was abducted almost immediately after the rebellion started and was held hostage. Laurel Grove was destroyed by Seminole allies on the orders of the governor of Florida, and eventually Anna burned her own property to prove her loyalty to Spanish Florida. As a result, after the war the Spanish granted Anna 350 acres for her loyalty. During this time, Anna also converted to Catholicism, which helped her establish relationships with important people throughout Spanish Florida.
 
After the rebellion ended Anna and Zephaniah bought a new plantation on St. George Island, not far from where Lauren Grove had been. The new property was known as Kingsley plantation, and would be where Anna and Zephaniah’s fourth child, John, was born in 1824.
 
In 1819, the Adams-Onis Treaty ceded Florida to the United States. Unlike under Spanish law, free people of color had little rights in the United States. Under U.S. law, interracial marriage was banned, mixed-race children could not inherit their parents’ property, and newly freed people of color had to leave Florida. Because Anna’s marriage and emancipation predated these laws, she was exempt from these new laws but the environment for Anna and her family continually worsened.
 
In an effort to find a better situation for his family, Zephaniah Kingsley decided to move his family to Haiti. He arranged for the leasing of a 35,000 acre plantation near Puerto Plata (today in the Dominican Republic) named Mayorasgo de Koka. Anna, along with two of her sons and sixty slaves moved to the plantation in Haiti between 1836 and 1838. Because Haiti had abolished slavery, Anna’s slaves were freed, but became indentured laborers. Zephaniah remained in the United States where he died in New York City in 1843. In 1846, Anna returned to Florida to argue for her inheritance, which was being challenged by Zephaniah’s sister. However, in 1846 the Superior Court of East Florida ruled in Anna Kingsley’s favor.
 
After receiving a large portion of her husband’s estate, Anna bought a twenty-two-acre farm along the St. John’s River in Chesterfield, just across from Jacksonville. Until 1862, Anna lived in this community of free blacks and slaves. Historians believe that Anna likely evacuated to the Union-held town at Fernandina on Amelia Island. After the Civil War, with most of her wealth destroyed, Anna went to Jacksonville to live with her daughter Mary until her death in 1870.

Creator

Glovsky, David

Editor

Timbs, Elizabeth

Online Resources

Kathy Tilford., “Anna Kingsley: A Free Woman.,” OAH Magazine of History 12 (1997): https://web.archive.org/web/20080511161300/http://www.oah.org:80/pubs/magazine/women/tilford.htm

From the National Parks Service:

“Anna Kingsley: A Free Woman”: https://www.nps.gov/timu/learn/historyculture/kp_anna_freewoman.htm

Anna’s Manumission Paper and Will: https://www.nps.gov/timu/learn/historyculture/kp_anna_manumission_will.htm

History of Kingsley Plantation: https://www.nps.gov/timu/learn/historyculture/kp_history.htm

Zephaniah Kingsley: https://www.nps.gov/timu/learn/historyculture/kp_zk.htm

 

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Bibliography

bauer, deborah l.. "Kingsley, Anna Jai Magigdine." Dictionary of African Biography, edited by Ed. Louis Gates Jr.. , edited by and Emmanuel K. Akyeampong. . Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t338/e1090 (accessed Thu Sep 05 10:51:37 EDT 2019).
 

Jay, Bethany Waywell. "Jai, Anna Madgigine." African American National Biography, edited by Ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr.. , edited by and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. . Oxford African American Studies Center, http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0001/e3012 (accessed Tue Sep 10 14:35:54 EDT 2019).


Landers, Jane C. Black Society in Spanish Florida. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Landers, Jane C. Colonial Plantations and Economy in Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

May, Philip. “Zephaniah Kingsley: Non-Conformist, 1765-1843” Florida Historical Quarterly 23 (1945): 145-59. 

Schafer, Daniel L. Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2003.

Schafer, Daniel L. Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. and the Atlantic World: Slave Trader, Plantation Owner, Emancipator. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2013.

Stowell, Daniel. ed. Balancing Evils Judiciously: The Proslavery Writings of Zephaniah Kingsley. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2000.

Tilford, Kathy. “Anna Kingsley: A Free Woman.” OAH Magazine of History 12 (1997): https://web.archive.org/web/20080511161300/http://www.oah.org:80/pubs/magazine/women/tilford.htm

Key Events

c. 1793

Anna Majigeen Ndiaye born in the kingdom of Jolof, in what is today Senegal.

1806

Anna is captured during a slaving raid and taken across the Atlantic. Later in 1806, she arrived in Cuba, where she was bought by Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. That November, she arrived at Kingsley’s plantation, Laurel Grove in Spanish Florida.

1807

Anna and Zephaniah’s first son, George, is born. Three more children would follow: Martha in 1809, Mary in 1811, and lastly John Maxwell in 1824.

1811

Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. emancipates Anna and their children George, Martha and Mary.

1812

Anna applies to hold land in her own name directly across the St. John’s River from her husband’s plantation.

1813

Anna burns her home to the ground as a display of support for the Spanish crown, so that rebels cannot use it for their operations.

March 1814

Anna moves with her children and slaves into a new plantation on Fort George Island, which becomes known as the “Ma’am Anna House.” She would live there until 1838.

1819

Florida is annexed by the United States, which has much harsher laws about race and mixed-race relationships. As a result, life for Anna and her children becomes increasingly difficult.

1838

Anna leaves Florida for Haiti, where she operates a large plantation with slaves brought from Florida. Because the Haitian government had abolished slavery, Anna frees her slaves, but has them sign contracts as indentured laborers.

September 13, 1843

Anna’s husband Zephaniah dies in New York City at the age of 78.

February 1846

Anna’s son George dies in a shipwreck while traveling from New York to Haiti.

March 1846

After a protracted legal battle with Zephaniah Kingsley Jr.’s sister Martha McNeill, Zephaniah’s will is accepted by the Superior Court of the District of East Florida, allowing Anna and her children to inherit most of Zephaniah’s property.

1847

Anna buys a 22-acre farm across the St. John’s River from Jacksonville. She would live there for the next 15 years.

1862

Due to Confederate pressure, Anna likely evacuated along with her daughters Martha and Mary and their families. They would stay in Fernandina on Amelia Island, held by the Union, until the end of the war.

April 1865

With the end of the Civil War, Anna moves to Jacksonville to live with her daughter Mary Kingsley Sammis.

Summer of 1870

Still living in Jacksonville, Anna dies and is likely buried in the family cemetery of her daughter Mary.