Community of Royal

One of Florida's Oldest African American Communities


The Lou & Charlotte Williams Home, Royal, Florida  circa 1930
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New: 'Royal- 40 Acres & A Mule Experience' tour for individuals, classes, groups, associations and/or clubs; call 352-748-0260 

For more information: click here.  See photos, below.  For newspaper article: click page1, page2.

The Emancipation Proclamation- the proclamation consists of two executive orders issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War.  The first one, issued September 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863.  The second order, issued January 1, 1863, named ten specific states where it would apply.  Lincoln issued the Executive Order by his authority as "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy" under Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution.  In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was first read at Christmas under the Proclamation tree in Port Royal, SC.

Port Royal, SC was the site of the Naval Battle of Port Royal during the Civil War.  Later during the war, it was the site of the Port Royal Experiment, which included most of the Sea Islands.  The Port Royal Experiment was a program begun during the American Civil War in which former slaves successfully worked on the land abandoned by plantation owners.  In 1861 the Union liberated the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and their main harbor, Port Royal.  The white residents fled, leaving behind 10,000 black slaves.  Several private Northern charity organizations stepped in to help the former slaves become self-sufficient.

No sooner had Northern armies touched Southern soil than this old question, newly guise, sprang from the earth, -What shall be done with slaves?  Peremptory military commands, this way and that, could not answer the query; the Emancipation Proclamation seemed but to broaden and intensify the difficulties; and so at last there arose in the South a government  of men called the Freedman's Bureau.  The Freedman's Bureau, which lasted, legally, from 1865 to 1872, but in a sense from 1861 to 1876, and which sought to settle the Negro problems in the United States of America.  In the work of establishing the Negroes as peasant proprietors the Bureau was severely handicapped.  Nevertheless, something was done.  Abandoned lands were leased so long as they remained in the hands of the Bureau, and a total revenue of $400,000 derived from black tenants.  Some other lands to which the nation had gained title were sold, and public lands were opened for the settlement of the few blacks who had tools and capital.  The vision of landowning, however, the righteous and reasonable ambition for forty acres and a mule which filled the freedman's dreams, was doomed in most cases to disappointment. 
       
40 acres and a mule was a practice in 1865 of providing arable land to Black former slaves who became free as Union armies occupied areas of the Confederacy, especially in Sherman's March Major General William T. Sherman's January 16, 1865 Special Field Orders, No. 15 provided for the land, and some of the recipients received from the Army mules for use in plowing as well; the combination was widely recognized as providing a sound start for a family farm.  Sherman's orders specifically allocated "the islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida".  After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, his successor, Andrew Johnson, revoked Sherman's Orders.

When the order was rescinded, most freed slaves did not receive 40 acres and an army mule and the ones who did, the land was reclaimed.  As far as we can determine, the freed slaves of the Community had already claimed their 40 acres and were able to maintain their land.  Today, in the Community of Royal, the 40 acres parcels are still maintained by the descendants of those first settlers. 
                           
     

To honor those first settlers and at the request of the Honorable Ginny Brown-Waite, Member of Congress, a flag was flown,over the United States Capitol on July 9, 2009, for freed slave founders of Picketsville and the Community of Royal, FL.

 Sources: Wikipedia, Cornell University Library, Honorable Ginny Brown-Waite, Community of Royal local history.
 For more information: 352-748-0260 or royalproject@cfl.rr.com or youngartists@aol.com  

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