Friday, December 05, 2008

Sandy Cornish (c1793 - c1869) - Key West Florida

The "Mallory Square" memorial park in Key West, Florida caught my attention. While there were about 20 statues of various famous citizens of the island - the one that caught my eye was the story of Sandy Cornish. He was a Black man living during slavery times who did what he had to do to remain free.

This included self-mutilation as a means of "destroying the value of the property". The concept that I can't relate as a free man who is not facing a similar threat is that Mr. Cornish injured himself so that he would no longer be fit for slavery.

The placard below reads:

Sandy Cornish (c1793-c1969)

Sandy Cornish (Uncle Sandie) was born a slave in Maryland about 1893. He migrated to Florida in 1939 where with his wife Lillah's help he was able to buy his freedom. In the last 1840's his free papers were lost in a fire. Six unprincipled men captured him with the intent of selling him at the slave market in New Orleans. Uncle Sandie escaped and to prevent recapture he inflicted several injuries on himself. In the public square of Port Leon, he cut the muscles of his ankle joint, plunged a knife in the other hip joint and cut off the fingers of his left hand, tendering himself unfit for labor and thus worthless as a slave. In the late 1940's he came to Key West where he and Lillah bought a farm on what is now Truman Avenue near Simonton Street. Uncle Sandie supplied fresh vegetables and fruits to the island inhabitants. During the Civil War many Union Soldiers visited Sandy's fruit orchard. He was by all accounts a highly successful farmer, one of the richest men in Key west and a leader of the African American community. In 1964 he established the ongoing Cornish Chapel of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at 802 Whitehead Street. Uncle Sandie died in the late 1860's a wealthy and respected and free citizen of Key West

Donated by Peter & Ellen Batty, Karl Scheuerman and Carol Solmon


Brown Man said...

Did you go to the Mel Fisher museum while you were there?

For such a small island, this is an amazing place, well put together, with nicely detailed exhibits.

The surprise extra is the substantial space given over to the history of the slave trade, and blacks in America - probably one third of the museum space is dedicated to this history.

Constructive Feedback said...

Indeed I did.

The Mel Fisher Museum was great. The kids enjoyed it as well.

I took a lot of pictures of the exhibits there and purchased a book about the Henrietta Marie.

(You just reminded me that I forgot to post them)

Anonymous said...

You have your 1800s and 1900s mixed up in Sandy's story. The plaque in Mallory Sq. is correct, however.

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