KEY WEST, FL – Monroe County celebrates Juneteenth with an immersive, original short film about the construction and historical significance of the African Cemetery Memorial at the County-owned Higgs Beach in Key West.
The 25-minute film was conceived and produced by Monroe County’s TV/Multimedia Sr. Coordinator Jethón Williams II. The film follows the construction of the memorial, which began in 2007 with the pouring of the concrete foundation to the installation of the ornamental fencing in 2010.
The film includes historic footage of the ceremony to honor the 150th anniversary of rescued African refugees. In 1860, the U.S. Navy intercepted three slave trading ships and diverted them to Key West. The ceremony included words from a guest speaker: His Excellency Nii Dr. Kpobi Tettey Tsuru, III, La Mantse – the King of the La Traditional District of Ghana.
The Key West community was so appalled at the treatment of the human cargo that they worked collectively to provide food and shelter for the almost 1500 Africans who would have been sold into slavery. Despite their efforts, hundreds of them died and were subsequently buried at Higgs Beach in what has come to be known as the African Cemetery, according to information from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.
In 2012, the African Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The film was designed for virtual reality, but can also be viewed through standard formats. It premieres June 19 and is available to watch on the Monroe County website homepage www.monroecounty-fl.gov or on the Monroe County Television channel on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIj64W_JmH4delKfXApH6aw or just search for “Monroe County Television” on YouTube.
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 and is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.