The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is a 501 (c) (3) accredited, not-for-profit organization existing to research, interpret, and exhibit the maritime history of Florida and the Caribbean in ways that increase knowledge, enrich the spirit, and stimulate inquiry.
Archaeology & Research/ African Cemetery
THE AFRICAN CEMETERY and the SLAVE SHIPS WILDFIRE, WILLIAM, and BOGOTA
In the spring of 1860, three slave ships - the Wildfire, William, and Bogota - were intercepted by the US Navy in an effort to stop the illegal trade in humans, and they were brought to Key West, the nearest US port. These US-owned ships were bound for Cuba, where their human cargo was to be sold to the thriving sugar plantations. A total of 1,432 Africans were rescued from these ships, and they arrived with nothing. The 3,000 citizens of the small island, led by United States Marshal Fernando Moreno, came together, built housing, donated clothing, and provided food and medical attention for them during their stay.
For eighty-five days, the newly liberated refugees found shelter at Key West. But because of the horrific conditions they had suffered aboard the slave ships, many of the Africans were quite ill, and 295 of them died on the island. They were buried in shallow sand graves along the southern shore.
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