Shaping an Island: 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.
Dr. Cori Convertito is the Curator and Historian for the Key West Art & Historical Society. She received her doctorate in maritime history from the U.K.’s University of Exeter. She also serves as an adjunct instructor in History and Humanities programs at the College of the Florida Keys. Today, Convertito creates and curates art- and history-rich exhibits that attract about 250,000 annual visitors to the Key West Museum of Art & History, the Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters, Fort East Martello Museum and the Tennessee Williams Museum.