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Historical Museum of Southern Florida/Ralph M. Munroe Collection [165D]

Developers of Miami and Key West

The role of Afro-Caribbeans, particularly Bahamians, in the physical and economic development of Miami and Key West in the late nineteenth century has gone largely unacknowledged. They helped clear the tropical forests for the development of Miami's fashionable Coconut Grove neighborhood and built the black community that adjoins it. In the process, they taught educated Easterners who were developing Miami how to survive its then inhospitable environment. Caribbeans provided much of the domestic service for the then emerging tourist industry in Miami and Key West. In Key West, they also worked as cigar makers and in the sponge industry. Time has not weakened the close connection between black Coconut Grove, a small working-class community near its white counterpart, and the Bahamas: since 1977 the town has been holding the Goombay Festival, one of Florida's largest street parties and an event that celebrates the town's Bahamian roots.

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