One of Florida’s more unique monuments honors the former slaves of Madison County for the roles they played in the building of the county. It stands on the northwest corner of Four Freedoms Park in downtown Madison, Florida.
Florida was still a frontier state when the War Between the States (or Civil War) erupted in 1861. The Seminole Wars had ended only three years before and places such as today’s cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando were little more than former military posts. About two-thirds of the state’s households did not own slaves and the one-third that did were mostly concentrated in a handful of counties along the Georgia state line.
According to the 1860 census, there were then 61,745 slaves in Florida, far fewer than in any other Confederate state or even in the Union states of Missouri, Kentucky or Maryland. These African-Americans were held in slavery by about 6.5% of the white population (5,152 owners out of a total free population of 78,679).
Madison County was home to around 4,249 slaves in 1860, along with 9 individuals who were identified as “free colored.” They were held by 75 of the county’s 3,521 white residents (2.1%).
The African-American residents of Madison County played a critical role in its growth and prosperity both before and after emancipation and it was to recognize and memorialize them that Howard Waring, a former director of the local Chamber of Commerce, spearheaded an effort to raise the money needed for the monument. Local businesses contributed the bulk of the $2,500 cost of the stone memorial.
The memorial takes the form of a simple obelisk and stands in Four Freedoms Park, which is located in the center of the most historic part of Madison. A blockhouse stood there during the Second Seminole War and some of the city’s most beautiful old homes and structures stand within sight of the park. Among these are the historic Dial-Goza House, built in around 1880, and the Madison Presbyterian Church, built in 1851.
Other monuments in the Four Freedoms Park include a Confederate memorial, a memorial commemorating the founding of the Florida Baptist Convention, a veterans’ memorial and the Four Freedoms Monument which commemorates the four freedoms as expressed in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These are Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear anywhere in the world.
The monument to former slaves was erected in 1996 and bears the following inscription:
This monument is dedicated
to the former slaves of
their supporters and the
unsung heroes who gave
their prayers, blood, sweat,
and tears to help make our
community what it is today.
May 20, 1996
More photos of Four Freedoms Park in Madison, Florida: