Presented by Sharony Green
How do we find meaning in the way in which geography has long helped oppressed groups in Florida shape their own destiny? This talk homes in on the way in which black Bahamians did as much via their varying encounters with land. Fleeing an agricultural slump, Bahamians arriving in this state in the late nineteenth century taught white settlers how to build on coral rock. In order to meet the state’s minimum requirement of people to incorporate Miami in 1896, they were also invited by local whites to become registered voters to boost the numbers in a desolate area. Such Bahamians often entered Florida through Key West and eventually, saw, as had those white settlers, the value in land ownership. Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, a Harbor Island, Eleuthera, native, settled in Key West before moving north to present-day Miami where he invested in real estate. As true of other Bahamians, he emerges as being one of the uppity subjects of the British crown who uncovered the complicated understandings of blackness in this region. White industrialists from the Midwest and the North and migrating southern blacks alike saw Bahamians as neither docile nor subservient. The same might be true of the runaway enslaved people who became a black militia that helped the Spaniards defend colonial Florida, or the Seminoles who could not be easily forced to march west during Indian removal. Consider, too, the way in which UM football’s success in the postwar period rested on roping off the state for recruiting purposes. With the black Bahamian largely in view, these intertwined developments permit the telling of new stories about the across time political and geographical power for unlikely people in Florida.
About the Speaker:
Historian Sharony Green, a native of Miami, Florida, with ancestral roots in the Bahamas and the Deep South, is an assistant professor of History at the University of Alabama. Her first history book, Remember Me to Miss Louisa: Hidden Black-White Intimacies in Antebellum America (Northern Illinois University Press, 2015), showcases the complex ways black and white Americans encountered each other before the Civil War. The Western Association of Women Historians (WAWH) awarded this book, which was part of the Mellon-funded Early America Places series, the 2016 Barbara “Penny” Kanner Prize for excellence in archival research. Green’s latest project uses the rise of the University of Miami’s football program in the eighties as a starting point to explore the way in which oppressed groups in Florida, among them black Bahamians, use space to improve their circumstance. This latest project reveals her ongoing interest in the complicated ways human beings encounter one another.
This program is sponsored by the Helmerich Trust.