The historical marker of the African presence of the Middle Passage has been installed in Pensacola

A month after the town of Pensacola installed its new “Middle Passage of Pensacola / African Presence in Colonial Pensacola” marker in Plaza de Luna, residents are invited to come together to celebrate at 10 am on Saturday.

“This marker looks to the past – the harshness, bad service and evil of slavery in the United States and Pensacola – but it is also a beacon of hope – a contribution to our community to make us what today we are, ”said Robert Overton Jr., executive director of the Historic Trust at the University of West Florida and a key figure in the marker episode.

The marker commemorates Pensacola as the port of the Middle Passage during the largest forced migration in history and the role it played in transporting 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Americas.

Up close, the historical marker highlights the significant African presence at Colonial Pensacola where “the influence and contributions of children, women, men and their African descendants in the creation of our nation and this region began. », Indicates the marker.

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As documented by the UNESCO Slave Trade Route Project, 2 million African slaves died on the journey and 500,000 were delivered directly to the North American continent.

Pensacola is one of 28 documented memory sites for slave arrivals to the United States and the education of this historical marker has been recognized by the nonprofit Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project.

“For me it is a great pride to have this marker in place because I love our city – I cried when this marker was put in place. I love what happened and what happened and the beauty of everyone involved in starting this project – it’s something we can share with the world, ”said Marion Williams, President of the Pensacola branch of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers project committee. “A great sense of black history has been in Pensacola, but very few blacks and whites know the history and contributions of African Americans, Native Americans and Aztecs other than Luna.”

The marker has been an ongoing project for about four years. He arrived at Pensacola in January 2020, according to Overton and Williams.

Its implementation was made possible through a partnership between the local committee of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers project, the city of Pensacola / Office of the mayor, University of West Florida Historic Trust, the Florida Department of State, United Nations Educational , Scientific and Cultural Organization Slave Trade Project, National Middle Passage Project and other community groups in Pensacola.

On the waterfront park, the double-sided marker is placed near the statue of the Spanish conquistador Tristan de Luna as a symbol of where the first Africans from Pensacola arrived and the conditions that brought them here.

A new Middle Passage to Pensacola marker is displayed near the statue of Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna in Plaza De Luna in downtown Pensacola on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

Discussions about where to place the marker extended its installation in order to maintain the historical accuracy of slave arrivals at Pensacola. Between the Tanyard, where the town hall is located, or the Pensacola Bay waterfront, the final verdict has landed in Plaza De Luna.

The Tanyard – one of the oldest neighborhoods in Pensacola named after Scottish merchants Panton, Leslie & Company – became home to imported African captives, making West Pensacola a predominantly African-American multiethnic community, according to Overton.

According to Marker, between 1802 and 1811, Panton, Leslie & Company imported at least 1,260 African captives directly to West Florida and “their skills and cultural practices were the basis for the development of Pensacola.”

“Historically, Plaza De Luna has always been near the port where slaves entered, and it’s a very visible sight. There is already a historical marker and a statue in honor of Tristen DeLuna entering Pensacola, so we thought this would be the best place, ”Overton said.

Tristan de Luna’s expedition landed in Ochuse Bay, now Pensacola Bay, in August 1559. Among the company of 1,550 people, it is well established that there were Africans, liberated and enslaved, however details of how and where the black members of the expedition served are uncertain.

Despite the loss of ships to a hurricane in Pensacola Bay, de Luna founded a colony and the Africans on the expedition were among the first to have a continued presence in the United States, according to Williams.

Previously:Parts of Plaza de Luna reopen six months after Hurricane Sally

Between 1775 and 1805, four documented slave ships, the Sucesco, the Black Prince, the Fly and the Beggar’s Bennison, transported more than 350 African slaves to Pensacola, according to Williams.

As European colonies developed and became trading posts during colonial times, the number of African slaves who arrived and were traded increased subsequently, Williams said.

“The blacks are really the ones who built the forts – that includes Fort Barrancas, Fort McCrae and, of course, Fort Pickens. It was all done by black slaves. In the 462 years that we’ve been here, it’s time to recognize who really drained the swamp, who actually did it all and didn’t get a dime for it, ”said Williams.

In an effort to develop Pensacola into a “more prosperous colony”, the British also adopted new codes of slavery and Pensacola became a refuge for slaves who had escaped from other neighboring colonies.

“The marker symbolizes the beginning of African American history in Pensacola. Since Pensacola was a European colony, it has always been multi-ethnic since 1559. The narrative of involuntary and voluntary immigrants to Pensacola is not comfortable, it is messy and painful – but we have to examine it, ”Teniadé, member of the Pensacola City Council. Broughton said.

Today, the community of Pensacola is taking steps to become more aware of their education with a more diverse and inclusive focus to honor the rich history and heritage that they have known and will continue to live on, said Williams.

“Pensacola is not perfect, but it is a kind and loving place with such a rich history that must survive. I hope we can shed light on its roots and the great services that African Americans and Native Americans have gave us back, ”said Williams. “It’s a gold mine in terms of tourism, but if you can’t appreciate who we are and where we’re from, you’re really missing out on being able to be a part of this great city.”

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