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Little is known of Francisco Menendez’s early life, but it is likely he was of Portuguese and Angolan heritage.
He was captured by slave traders and brought to South Carolina. Eventually he escaped and reached Saint Augustine where in theory a pledge of allegiance to the Spanish Monarchy, conversion to Catholicism and 4 years in the colonies militia would grant him freedom. In truth it took eleven years and a new governor for him to be given unconditional freedom.
During those long years he proved himself a capable military commander by defending Saint Augustine, leading attacks into British territories, and encouraging other slaves to escape to Florida. Sometime in the late 1740’s he became a Spanish Privateer, raiding English shipping as far north as the Carolina’s to help feed Saint Augustine and clothe the troops. During this time he was captured at sea by the English and sold back into slavery in the Caribbean.
Saint Augustine ransomed him back from the English, and in 1752 he lead the effort to rebuild Fort Mosé. Fort Mosé and its surrounding community became the first legal community of freedmen in what would be the Unites States of America.