Viva Florida 500: Slave Trade Remembered at African Cemetery in Key West
March 18th, 2013
For such a small island, Key West has been a part of many pivotal moments in American history, including the end of the Transatlantic slave trade in 1808. Since the island was so close to Cuba and its sugar plantations, Navy warships were positioned nearby and intercepted three slave ships in 1860. They rescued 1,432 Africans, who were being transported in deplorable conditions, and brought them to Key West. The 3,000 citizens of the island were so appalled at the inhumane treatment of the human cargo, many of whom were children, that they worked together to build housing, donate clothing and provide food and medical attention.
Despite the town’s best efforts, 295 of the Africans died, and a cemetery was established for them on a sand ridge along the southern shore of the island. The location of the cemetery soon became lost to time, only to be rediscovered by a team of archaeologists from the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society in 2002. A memorial has now been created marking the African Cemetery on Higgs Beach, and the city plans to redevelop the area to further preserve the graves with a dedicated green space. At 4:00 p.m. on March 24, visit the cemetery for a ceremony to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
This event is part of Visit Florida's Viva 500 commemoration, honoring the anniversary of Ponce de Leon's landing in Florida. Find more events around Florida at Florida Travel + Life's events calendar.
Tags: Florida History | Florida Keys | Key West | Viva 500
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