Florida—the ancestral homeland of varied indigenous peoples—became a United States Territory in 1821, thus ending more than 250 years of Spanish and British rule. This opened Florida to increased development and the expansion of American policies and culture. This expansion was viewed by many American leaders as an advancement for the newly-formed nation; however, policies affecting enslaved peoples and native peoples would leave a scarred legacy that would last far beyond the territorial period. The territorial period saw Florida’s population shift, the development of new cities, and the creation of a constitution. In 1845, Florida was granted statehood by the U.S. Congress.
To engage the public in learning more about this important transitional time in Florida’s history, the Florida Department of State (DOS) will highlight its territorial and early statehood period resources in 2021. The unique resources include official territorial and state records, nineteenth-century archaeological and historical collections, structures, and exhibits that illuminate the time period. Furthermore, DOS will be developing engaging virtual tours, programs, and videos to share this history with the community.
- September 28, 2021, noon – Tallahassee & Florida's Territorial Bicentennial. This year marks the 200-year anniversary of Florida becoming a United States territory in 1821. The significance of this anniversary goes far beyond the political implications of the treaty with Spain, particularly when viewed through the experiences of Native people and free Black communities in the area near modern-day Tallahassee. Join John Grandage, Public Engagement and Historic Site Development Director for the Division of Historical Resources, for a presentation focused on the evolution of civil rights in early territorial Florida and Tallahassee history within the broader context of the bicentennial commemoration.
- February 11, 2021 – Virtual Director’s Tour: Researching Slavery in Tallahassee, presented by The Grove Museum. Grove Museum Executive Director John Grandage conducts a virtual tour about the museum's research on the lives and contributions of enslaved people in Tallahassee history during the territorial and early statehood periods. Click here to view a recording of this presentation.
- February 17, 2021 – Seminoles in Territorial Florida – virtual presentation by Marty Bowers, Education Coordinator, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, presented by the Museum of Florida History. Click here to view a recording of this presentation.
- March 11, 2021, Noon – Understanding Slavery Through Archaeology, virtual presentation by The Grove Museum. Join archaeologists and museum professionals for a panel discussion on how archaeology is used to interpret slavery at historic sites. Panelists share insights based on their work and experience with sites connected to the history of slavery, including The Grove, and discuss how new research methods shed light on the lives of enslaved people. Click here to view a recording of this presentation.
- March 13, 2021, 11 a.m. – 2nd Saturday Family Program: Florida Becomes a U.S. Territory. This virtual program for children and families will explore the history of this 1821 event. A museum educator will discuss how it happened, who was involved, and what unique steps went into the creation of Florida, U.S.A. Participants will also get to design their own Territorial Florida Flag. Click here to view a recording of this presentation.
- April 22, 2021, 7 p.m. – The People of Territorial Florida Lecture Series
Dr. Nashid Madyun, Director of the Meek-Eaton Black Archives at Florida A&M University, discusses how for centuries Africans and their descendants held a precarious place in Florida society where freedom and slavery often existed side by side. Previously, runaways from British colonies, and later American states, sought the protection of the Spaniards and Catholicism. When Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. this protection disappeared. With the new government, a society built on slavery and plantation economics took firm hold on the territory ending the hope of freedom for Black communities for generations. Click here to view a recording of this presentation.
- June 24, 2021, 8 pm, The People of Territorial Florida Lecture Series Featuring Dr. Philip Smith. Dr. Philip Smith, Associate Professor at Texas A&M University, explores how Europeans, Africans, and Native tribes for centuries had forged complicated multicultural relationships only to see those relationships challenged in the new U.S. territory. Some stood with their neighbors to resist the changes while others adopted the new American identity. In the end, the new identity for the territory prevailed and Florida was changed forever. Click Here to view a recording of this presentation.
- July 10, 2021 - 200th Anniversary of the Changing of the Flags in St. Augustine - East Florida
- July 17, 2021 - West Florida Territorial Bicentennial
Department of State Resources List
- A Guide to Researching the Territorial Era at the State Archives of Florida
- Division of Library and Information Services, State Library of Florida, Subject Bibliographies:
- Division of Library and Information Services, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
- Territorial Period Artifacts from the Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research
- Territorial Period Artifacts from the Collection of the Museum of Florida History