One has to look closely at the white-colmned pavilion at Bayview Park to see the reference to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Stephen R. Mallory chapter, which paid to install the pavilion in 1924 to honor “Confederate soldiers and sailors.”
But the words — and the history — are there nonetheless, although the words could soon change.
Key West’s elected officials, at their Sept. 16 meeting, will consider a proposal by Commissioner Sam Kaufman to rename — not remove — the pavilion and adjacent bandstand in honor of Key West’s official One Human Family motto, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in October.
“I’ve been looking at this for several years, really since I saw the original charter for the Key West chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, when it was donated to the local library,” Kaufman told Keys Weekly. “But I think now the time is right. There’s a higher consciousness in the country as a whole, and I see this as a unifying rather than divisive change. It’s always a good thing to remember our history and learn from it, to use it as a reminder that we must be vigilant against all forms of hate.”
The United Daughters of the Confederacy pavilion and Bayview Park in general were the location of KKK recruitment rallies in the 1920s, when the Klan had 690 new applications for membership, and held their induction ceremony there at the park pavilion.
“But we’re such a different Key West than we were in 1924,” Kaufman said. “I think it’s important for people to recognize that the Key West of today is not the Key West of 1924.”
Keys Weekly columnist David Sloan has researched the Klan’s activity in Key West in his “Love Me Do” series of columns about the history of systemic racism in the Southernmost City.
Sloan explores Stephen Mallory’s influence in Key West as a former U.S. senator and a Key West slave owner. Mallory, for whom the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was named, leased his human “property” to the U.S. government to help build Fort Taylor and Fort Jefferson, Sloan writes in “The Dark Side of Mallory Square.”
“An 1808 law banning Congress members from having contracts with the government could have prevented Mallory from becoming a senator,” Sloan writes. “But he worked his way around that problem by putting his slaves in a trust controlled by his brother-in-law. The government paid the trust for the leased slave labor, and the trust funds were, in turn, passed to Mallory through his brother-in-law and wife so the new senator could continue profiting from the labor of his slaves.”
Kaufman has been in touch with Jerry Hughes, who heads up the board that created the Vietnam Living Memorial, which is among Bayview Park’s military memorials that also include a large statue dedicated to Black soldiers from Key West who fought for the Union in the Civil War.
“I spoke with Jerry Hughes and his board voted unanimously to support the name change,” Kaufman said. If his proposal passes, the structures will officially be called the One Human Family pavilion and bandstand.
“On Oct. 17, 2000, the City of Key West chose One Human Family as its official philosophy…to proclaim that ‘there is no ‘them,’ there is just ‘us,’ all of us together as One Human Family, now and forever….we, as a community, aim to share our One Human Family philosophy ‘with our global neighbors, so others can find inspiration to grow beyond the artificial limitations of racism, nationalism, sexism, classism, monotheism, prejudice, homophobia and every other illusion used to try to separate us from all being equal,’” states Kaufman’s proposed renaming resolution.