The Key West Art and Historical Society, in partnership with Monroe County Public Libraries and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, is building cultural equity by telling the stories of the Black community’s significant contributions to local culture and industry, as documented in artwork and historic documents. This online exhibition seeks to redress a serious omission - that the substantial contributions of people of color are under-represented in our island’s historical narrative and our cultural institutions.
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 and fishermen. The contributions of these skilled workers has been marginalized, when in truth, their contributions were vital, valuable and integral. This exhibit is part of a larger project which is a step forward in doing what we all should have been doing for years – celebrating the true diversity of the heritage of the island city of Key West.
This online exhibition focuses on Black contributions in our early history, using visual arts, as well as the permanent collections of both the Key West Art & Historical Society and the Florida History Department of the Key West Library. The neighborhood children and families of today, whether they be descendants of Bahamian fishermen or emigres from a myriad of Caribbean islands, deserve to see people who look like them in their textbooks, in their governments, and in their museums.
Sponsored in part by the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, The Helmerich Trust, Ocean Sotheby’s International and private donations.
The mission of The Key West Art & Historical Society is to preserve the culture of the Florida Keys through exhibiting and displaying regional art, architecture and history for the purpose of educating the community and visiting public.