Bahamians were apparently leaving the islands in droves in the years after the American Civil War. They were headed to the Florida keys in search of prosperity, and a new life now that slavery had been abolished. For those trying to eek out an existence on the islands outside of the capital New Providence, life was hard and unforgiving.

Migration patterns between Southern Florida, and the Bahama Islands, in the decades after slavery ended in America, is an interesting one. It appears that Bahamians, both negro and whites, comprised an incredible three-fourths of the population of Key West, Florida in the year 1888.

According to newspapers at the time, Bahamas negroes and whites (called “Conchs”) spoke with a cockney accent like the British of East London.

(The Daily Sentinel, Kansas, Friday 6th April 1888)

1882 Key West Florida

In 1882, a newspaper from Pensacola, Florida, notes how the Republican Party in the Key West County of Southern Florida greatly depend on the valuable votes of naturalised Nassau negroes.

It was Abraham Lincoln, and the Republican Party who freed the southern slaves during the American Civil War. Negroes who were able to vote invariably voted Reputation.

“According to the decision of some United States judges, Negroes born in foreign countries could not become citizens of the United States.—- New York Dispatch.

By the way if this is true it would seriously affect the Republican Party of this county, since fully half of their voters are naturalised Nassau and Cuban Negroes. Doubtless the interpretation put upon it is right, and it behoves the Democratic party of the state to look into it.—– Key West Democrat “

(Pensacola Semi-Weekly Tuesday May 9, 1882)