KEY WEST, FLORIDA, U.S.A.: LOCAL EPICENTER OF GLOBAL REMEMBRANCES ON AUGUST 25, 2019
WHAT: The 2019 Annual South Florida Community Observance of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition, and DAY OF HEALING / 400-YEARS REMEMBRANCE
• Honoring the memory of the 295 African refugees buried at the Key West African Cemetery, and of all who perished in the Middle Passage and all who survived to give life to future generations;
• Honoring the Key West community’s historic humanitarian support of victims of the “slave trade,” and current leadership in gathering and preserving knowledge of this history.
Historic Virginia Key Beach at Center of Local 400th Anniversary Remembrances
As special observances are held around the nation, and even internationally, of the 400th anniversary of the fateful arrival of “20 and odd” captive Africans from the kingdom of Ndongo, Angola, aboard the ship White Lion “at Point Comfort (modern-day Hampton) in the fledgling British Virginia colony about the later end of August” in 1619, signaling the start of the “racial” drama that continues to haunt the United States today, no less than two inspired remembrances will mark this “teachable moment” at Miami’s landmark Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive (off Rickenbacker Causeway), Miami, Fl 33049, on August 18 and 20.
This milestone opportunity to revisit, reflect upon, and be empowered by the full meaning of the last 20 generations of African presence in English-colonized Native North America has provided the vision for “The Year of Return” observance on Sunday, the 18th from 2:00-4:00 p.m., presented by the South Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP, in solidarity with the national organization’s groundbreaking “Jamestown to James Town” 7-10-day pilgrimage of African Americans to Ghana, West Africa (where a district of Accra, the capital, is named James Town, near Fort James, one of the numerous dungeons along the coast of that country where captured Africans were held until they could be sold to slave ships).
Did You Know?
• Africans were in the Americas centuries before Columbus and the “slave trade,” as shown by the research of scholars like Ivan van Sertima and Leo Weiner. Some evidence suggests an early African presence in Florida.
• Africans accompanied the first Spanish explorers and settlers of Florida, nearly a full century before the English settlement of Jamestown, Virginia.
• While the Southern colonies, and later Southern states of the U.S., were dominated by plantation slavery, Florida was Spanish territory and “Freedom Land” for Africans escaping enslavement and Native peoples escaping settler encroachment on their traditional lands.
• Pirates were known for exercising “complete integration and complete democracy.” Among the most legendary of pirates was Black Caesar, who operated in South Florida waters.
• The first invasion of a foreign country by the U.S. began with the incursions into Florida which became known as the Seminole wars.
• Both the words “Seminoles” and “Maroons” are derived from the Spanish word “cimarrones,” which was used for livestock which escaped into the wild. “Cimarrones” became “Siminoli” in the Creek Indian language, and then “Seminole” in English.
• “The Seminoles were a people, not a tribe,” consisting of numerous Native groups and Africans. Black Seminoles were especially valuable to the alliance as interpreters, since they knew both European and Native languages.
• The Seminole Wars were the costliest in U.S. history, in both money and bloodshed, until the Vietnam War.
• The main goal of the Seminole Wars was not only to “fight Indians” and to displace them west of the Mississippi River on the Trail of Tears, but equally importantly to "recapture the 'property' " of Southern slave owners and prevent further escapes of enslaved people.
• One of the most important sites of the Second Seminole War was the 1838 Loxahatchee River Battlefield in northern Palm Beach County, Florida, where Black and Native Seminoles, outnumbered and outgunned, fought bravely for their freedom, until they were captured by U.S. forces, dishonorably, under a flag of truce, and marched on the Trail of Tears to Tampa, shipped to Louisiana and east Texas, and marched to Oklahoma.
LEST WE FORGET: Anniversaries of Known Massacres of Native Americans in the U.S. (November-January)
It is notable that the anniversaries of several of the worst of injustices against the Indigenous First Nations occur around during America’s holiday season, between Thanksgiving (which is in Native American Heritage Month) and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration in January. (We also note that several of these incidents, far from being a complete list, occurred during the Civil War, greatly overshadowed by the nation’s main focus of attention on the North-South conflict.)
The heartfelt gratitude and joy that we celebrate every year during this time are not diminished by the power of knowledge. On the contrary, like all human beings, we are only more empowered by knowing the history of the land that sustains us, and the human dramas which have shaped the world we know today. For this reason, this remembrance is included here as part of the FBHRP’s Mission.
Links to further information follow this list.
Nov. 26, 1868
“Battle” of Washita, attack by U.S. forces on a Cheyenne Arapaho camp, led by Gen. Geo. A. Custer, in which principal Chief Black Kettle is killed, four years after the Sand Creek massacre (see Nov. 29, 1864, below).
Nov. 29, 1864
Sand Creek Massacre: On Nov. 29, 1864, as Union armies fought through Virginia and Georgia, Col. John Chivington led some 700 cavalry troops in an unprovoked attack on peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho villagers at Sand Creek in Colorado. They murdered nearly 200 women, children and older men. Black Kettle had displayed an American flag to signal that they were “friendly,” but to no avail.
Dec. 20, 1786
Hanging of the youngest person in US history, Hannah Ocuish, described as a “half-breed Indian girl,” at age 12 years and 9 months, for allegedly murdering a 6-year-old white girl.
(Related to above: Dec. 21, 1855:
“Lynching of 19-year-old CELIA, enslaved mother, who was executed for killing her rapist “master” Robert Newsome in Fulton, Missouri.)
Dec. 26, 1862
Mankato Massacre: The largest mass execution in US history, takes place with the simultaneous hanging of 38 Dakota men (of 303 convicted, who rebelled against broken treaty promises and unlivable conditions) in Mankato, MN, by order of Abraham Lincoln.
Dec. 29, 1890
Wounded Knee Massacre, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota: At least 200 killed, mostly women, elderly, and children,; 51 wounded, at Pine Ridge Reservation on South Dakota.
Jan. 23, 1870
Massacre of Piegan village in Montana, 173 killed, including 90 women and girls. (reported a month later in the NY Times, Feb. 22, 1870)
ONLINE LINKS TO FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THESE KNOWN MASSACRES
Washita Massacre link:
Sand Creek Massacre Links:
Mankato Massacre Links:
(NOTE: This account of the largest mass execution in U.S. history provides nothing of the background circumstances which led to this event. It mentions “murder” and “massacre” by the “Indians” but nothing of their own grievances, which were many, to say the least.)
Wounded Knee Massacre Links:
Related: A Time of Awakening:
“Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee”: Four Lakota activist women’s 2015 eloquent and insightful Invitation to the Global Indigenous to remember the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre at noon on December 29 for four more years continues to be timely, especially as this marks a time of conscious (re)awakening for humanity:
Piegan (Marias) Massacre links: