You do NOT want to miss the Bahama Village Black History Exhibit coming this January

History will come alive at the Custom House Museum this January.

John Smith, Monroe County’s resident Black Historian, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about an upcoming exhibit.

The Bahama Village Black History Exhibit will be displayed on January 13 at the Custom House Museum to show relics from the past going back to what has been forgotten.

Smith said, “This will be one of the most impactful lessons that could be learned about Bahama Village from the natives and the stories being told in our voices. It is our intentions to make sure that everything that we share can be authenticated and everything that we’re sharing has been verified. With this exhibit, it is our intention to present classified knowledge based on facts.”

The exhibit will provide history from the beginning of Key West in the 1820s, but it will also highlight the great Bahamian migration in the 1880s.

Smith said, “We will definitely encapsulate the entire Bahama Village community. It will start out with the great presentation of Frederick Douglas, the man, and telling his story and of course how what he believed in transferred over to the people and the first segregated school on the island was named for Frederick Douglas in 1971. We’re very proud of that and all of the things he brought to Key West and what he meant.”

When the Bahamians came to Key West, they brought their history with them.

Smith said, “They were some of the first negroes to be educated. So when they came to Key West, one of the most important things was education and in the black communities, any new black community evolving, usually comes around the school, the church and the culture. It’s been kept alive through people like the late Coffee Butler. We like to share in this exhibit his history and what he meant to Key West and of course to have the Coffee Butler Amphitheater named for him really says something about the people on the island and their intentions to represent the history and the people who were here before.”

A section of the exhibit will also include musicians.

Smith said, “That will be a wonderful part of this. We will also be sharing the economic engine of Bahama Village, which was basically Petronia Street from Simonton Street down to Fort Street and also on Thomas Street. Where the famous Blue Heaven restaurant sits today was pretty much City Hall. That would be the main crossing intersection into the Bahama Village community and amongst that we will be sharing a photograph gallery of the sacred elders of Key West. We will be sharing what they have meant to us and how they have represented the Bahama Village community.”

The social and civic groups will also be included in the display.

Smith said, “And those people that we held in such high extreme and have always been representative of the community and that also includes law enforcement. We will be sharing some history from players from the Negro Baseball League that started out right here in Key West, born and raised. They have quite an interesting story to go with that. As a result of that, several of those players did end up playing in the National Negro Baseball League.”

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