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Key West’s Lost African Cemetery Is Found

Lost African Cemetery

This is one of only two known African cemeteries in the Western Hemisphere. Not  slaves, it’s  a burial ground at Florida’s southernmost point containing 294 actual burials which were lost for 141 years.

In 1859 President James Buchanan ordered the Navy to commandeer any vessel found hauling human cargo… slaves. Slavery was big business in Cuba at the time fetching up to $1,200 per each person. The 3 captured ships were brought to Key West bringing 1,437 new temporary Florida residents to the island. Most were sick from the 6 week voyage from Africa and began dying immediately. As the African’s passed on they were buried at a government paid cost of $5.50 per person and then forgotten by history for 141 years. The remaining survivors stayed here for only 3 months, they stayed in makeshift barracks till being deported to Liberia. It wasn’t until March 24th 2001 led by an 1861 Army Corps of Engineers map with nine X’s on it when Key West recognized the historic site. This cemetery has NO headstones, only a historic marker seen above with this tourist leaning against it. There’s a beautiful color map of slave ship routes (shown below) that sadly gets passed by almost all tourists not even knowing what it’s for and why it’s here.

You can find this new memorial at Higgs Beach on the Eastern part of the island just a few 100 feet south of the AIDS Memorial mentioned in last weeks blog. This is a FREE attraction with FREE parking… and please don’t walk by this part of history as 99.9% of the other tourists do!

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