August 21, 2013


A recently established but highly significant Key West tradition will continue in Sunday, August, 25, at 6:00 p.m. with the Annual Observance of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition (officially August 23), at the 1860 Key West African Cemetery monument on Atlantic Boulevard, just west of the White Street Pier and adjacent to the West Martello Tower fort. 

The International Day was declared by the United Nations in 1999, as part of the UNESCO International Slave Route Project (ISRP), an initiative launched in 1994 as a global call to all nations which were touched by the slave trade to retrieve, restore, and conserve all historic locations, artifacts, records, memories, and other evidence, so that this world-changing chapter of human history will be more widely known and not ever be lost or forgotten. 

The August 23 date was selected to commemorate the beginning of the successful Haitian Revolution in 1791, as a reminder that Africans themselves were the primary actors in bringing about the Abolition of the barbaric trade in human beings.  (This year’s observance marks the 222nd anniversary).

The Key West African Cemetery is symbolic of Key West’s numerous, often heroic connections to the history of the slave trade.  It is the site where 295 Africans, mostly young people, were buried in 1860.  They were part of a total of 1,432 captives who were rescued from three American-owned slave ships captured by the U.S. Navy and brought into Key West, where the survivors benefited from the much-needed generosity of the local community and U.S. Marshal Fernando Moreno.  While most of the Africans lived to be returned to Africa (although not to their original homes), those buried near Higgs Beach, fully 20% of the total, could not recover from the illnesses and horrific conditions they had endured aboard the slave ships prior to being rescued.

Key West also has close other close ties to Middle (slave trade) history, by way of the remarkable saga of the Africans rescued from the 1827 wreck of the Spanish slave ship Guerrero, and the discovery of the 1700 wreck of the English slaver Henrietta Marie, discovered by legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher, among other cases.  The Maritime Museum named in Fisher’s memory has become a repository of much of this history.

The Remembrance observance on August 25 will include traditional Native American and African ritual ceremonies along with prayers, discussions of this local history, and open dialogue among participants, aimed at making these memories more enduring.

For further information, 306-904-7620.

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The Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey is petitioning Senator Bill Nelson, Representative Frederica Wilson, and the Congress of the United States of America for the exoneration of Marcus Garvey: 

We are also petitioning President Barack Obama to exonerate Marcus Garvey: 

Thank you for your support.

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