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Secrets Of Spanish Florida: A SECRETS OF THE DEAD Special

Airs Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Patriotic war militia on horseback. Many Americans felt it was time to annex ...

Credit: Courtesy of Small Planet Pictures, Inc.

Above: Patriotic war militia on horseback. Many Americans felt it was time to annex Spanish-held Florida to the United States. Georgia Governor George Mathews created a private army comprised of volunteers. The “Patriot War” of 1812 is one of the most overlooked events in early 19th-century history.

Watch a team of archaeologists, scientists and historians reveal colonial America’s Spanish roots.

The first permanent European settlement in the United States was founded in 1565 — two generations before the settlements in Jamestown and Plymouth — not by English Protestants, but by the Spanish and a melting pot of people they brought with them from Africa, Italy, Germany, Ireland and even converted Jews, who integrated almost immediately with the indigenous tribes.

The First Thanksgiving Was Actually in Spanish Florida

55 years before the Pilgrims even arrived in Plymouth, the first true Thanksgiving took place in St. Augustine, Florida.

“Secrets Of Spanish Florida – A Secrets Of The Dead Special” uncovers one story of America’s past that never made it into textbooks.

Follow some of America’s leading archaeologists, maritime scientists, and historians as they share the story of Florida’s earliest settlers.

It’s a story that has taken more than 450 years to reveal.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Small Planet Pictures, Inc.

University of Florida archaeologist Dr. Kathleen Deagan helps unearth the bones of the original settlers found on Charlotte Street in St. Augustine when the city dug up a sewer line.

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • With claim to the east coast of the New World contested by both the French and the Spanish, a community of settlers from Spain and elsewhere arrived in 1565 and laid claim to an area that is now St. Augustine, Florida.
  • America’s original European forefathers were a melting pot of races that more closely resembled today’s population than was previously understood.
  • The discovery of 1,000 pages of manuscripts written by members of the Timucuan tribe in the late 16th century indicates that these people, who lived in Georgia and Florida, had achieved a level of literacy among indigenous peoples that has not been recognized before.
  • Nearly 125 years before the Emancipation Proclamation — in 1738 — a colony of 100 former slaves had already been given their freedom and their own land in Spanish La Florida.
  • A “lost tribe” of indigenous people known as the Yamasees, survived extermination by hiding in the colony’s swamps and blending in with other tribes for generations, though their existence is still not recognized by the federal government. The documentary interviews two members of the tribe.

Why Slaves Escaped to Florida for Asylum

Join a team of archaeologists, scientists and historians as they reveal the little-known history of America’s Spanish colonists who settled in Florida in 1565, long before Jamestown or Plymouth were founded. Narrated by actor Jimmy Smits.

At the intersection of science and history, SECRETS OF THE DEAD uses the latest scientific discoveries to challenge prevailing ideas and throw fresh light on unexplained historical events.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Small Planet Pictures, Inc.

The discovery of English pirate Francis Drake’s written plan to attack Puerto Rico, his last siege, helped the Spanish defeat Drake. The Spanish admiral who defeated him was then made governor of St. Augustine.


SECRETS OF THE DEAD is on Facebook, Tumblr, and you can follow @SecretsPBS on Twitter. #SecretsDeadPBS


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A production of Small Planet Pictures Inc., Investigative Media Group Inc. and 1186 Pictures in association with the University of Florida Historic St. Augustine Inc. and THIRTEEN Productions LLC. Narrator is Jimmy Smits. Producer/Writer is Robbie Gordon. Associate Producers are Josh Wallace, Jenny Mottier, and Jaime Greco. Director of Reenactments is Tony Haines. Director of Photography is Joe Karably. Senior Editors/Sound Design are Tony Haines and Ed Delgado. For SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Director of Programming Operations is Jane Buckwalter. Executive-in-Charge in Stephen Segaller. Executive Producer is Stephanie Carter.


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