Haitian Refugee Boat on the Beach at the Naval Station Key West


This image, taken by Key West photographer Cory McDonald in the 1970s, shows one of countless vessels abandoned by “boat people” from Haiti after they completed the perilous journey to the United States. An accompanying note indicates that the boat had had 52 people on it, and that the photograph was taken at sunrise after a nighttime arrival. Since the beginning of the François Duvalier (“Papa Doc”) regime in 1964, political and economic pressures drove many Haitians out of their country and to the United States. The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) reported that between 1972 and 1981 55,000 undocumented boat people arrived in Florida. The actual number may have been almost double that, as many of the arrivals escaped detection. About 85 percent of the boat people settled in Miami.

Last updated: September 18, 2015