Request for Apalachicola fugitive slave marker sparks controversy

Local News

APALACHICOLA, Fla. (WMBB) — Our media partners at the Apalachicola Times are reporting on a controversy surrounding a request for a historical marker.

The marker would recognize Moses Roper, a 19th-century abolitionist who escaped a life of slavery on an Apalachicola steamboat.

But city commissioners aren’t exactly welcoming the proposal.

Most people had never heard of Moses Roper until this exhibit opened last month at the Apalachicola Center for history, Culture, and Art.

The exhibit has received a positive response from the residents and visitors.

“He really paved the way for some later abolitionists like Frederick Douglas and others and he was a really important historical figure. Unfortunately, outside of academic circles few people have heard of him,” Apalachicola Main Street Director Augusta West said.

The Hillside Coalition of Laborers for Apalachicola and Apalachicola Main Street now want to place a historical marker on the riverfront, telling Roper’s story.

“It’s another way of getting his story out there and providing more balance to the history, more diversity to the history that’s presented,” West said.

But at last Tuesday’s city commission meeting, city leaders tabled the marker vote, saying they want more historical documentation.

They also said the proposal did not follow proper procedures.

“There was a concern that I had made plans for a marker on city property without involving the city, but in reality what I was doing was bringing a proposal to the city,” West said. “In fact, the documentation that I submitted to the city commission used the word project proposal.”

West believes she followed proper procedures and that the marker will spread roper’s story.

“His struggles as an enslaved person and also his tremendous accomplishments as an author, as a lecturer, and as a powerful member of the abolitionist’s movement would be appropriate and the right thing to do,” West said.

They even started an online petition for the marker.

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