Key West’s Black History
From its beginnings in the 1800s, the maritime industries of Key West were dependent on the skills of Black Bahamians and Black Cubans as sailors, spongers, boat builders, cigar rollers, and fishermen. The contributions of these skilled workers have been marginalized, when their contributions were vital, valuable, and integral. This presentation looks at the patterns and difficulties in Black settlement beginning in the nineteenth century, the diverse industries that the Black population impacted, and how these settlers shaped the island of Key West into what it is today.
Cori Convertito, Lead Historian at the Florida Keys History Center, received her doctorate in maritime history from the U.K.’s University of Exeter. Today, Convertito heads a center for stewardship, knowledge, and understanding of the historic, cultural, and ecological diversity of the Florida Keys. The center serves as a national focal point for the study, advancement, and preservation of the Keys’ cultural heritage.