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Virginia Museum Contest Video Highlights Southernmost Black History

The Shavers family at the African Cemetery on Higgs Beach in Key West.
Nancy Klingener
From left, Vic Shavers, Gina Burgin Shavers, Lindsey, Sydney and Max Shavers at the African Cemetery on Higgs Beach in Key West.

Three young historians with a long family history in Key West are highlighting the island's Black history in a video made for a Virginia museum.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is holding the video contest as part of its exhibit on "The Dirty South." The exhibit focuses on the influence of Black culture on visual art, music and more in the American South.

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The Shavers family entry into the video contest is about Key West and it's called "Southernmost."

Key West "is part of the South, and it's such a significant part of Southern history, but also American history in general," said Lindsey Shavers. She recorded the narration for the video, a poem that the three siblings wrote together.

Lindsey, her sister Sydney and her brother Max grew up in Virginia. But their family history in Key West goes back six generations, to 1840.

"The Shavers family history started on the island with our third great-grandfather, Peter Shavers, who was born free in 1840 in Liberty, Virginia," Lindsey Shavers said. "But he managed to make his way down to Key West and ended up serving with Harriet Tubman and 125 other Key West men in the Union Army's South Carolina volunteer infantry regiment."

The family collected oral histories from elders in Key West's Black community over the summer. They also shot videos of their explorations of the island.

"We just wanted to show the world Key West history and culture," Max Shavers said.

The "Southernmost" video explores their own family history and it highlights other people and events in the Black experience on the island — as well as the natural beauty of the area and surrounding seas.

"It's just so rich and it's such an important part of American history," Lindsey Shavers said. "I think it's just been in us since birth, honestly."

The siblings are still working on the best way to present the oral histories they recorded over the summer. In the meantime, Sydney Shavers says they hope the video helps start their mission.

"There's honestly so much Black history that's been made in Key West but few people know about it. And we hope to change that," she said.

The winner of the contest is scheduled to be announced Friday, Aug. 27.


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