David Kushner offers a riveting account of the shipwreck of the Guerrero, a pirate slave ship that had been en route to Cuba and crashed off the coast of Florida in 1827. This thread of the story offers a peek into the transatlantic slave trade — and our world’s ugly history. But this history cannot be forgotten, and it’s the mission of Diving with a Purpose (DWP) — a nonprofit of Black scuba divers co-founded by Ken Stewart and Brenda Lanzendorf — to find the ship’s wreckage and, in doing so, tell the full story of this tragedy.

The incredible story of how the ship was lost and found can finally be told in full. It’s a tale of tragedy, determination, and a powerful friendship that brought this all to light: that of DWP cofounders Ken Stewart, a retired Black copy-machine repairman from Nashville, and Brenda Lanzendorf, a white flight attendant turned marine archaeologist at Biscayne National Park in the Florida Keys, the area where the Guerrero went down. With an increasingly divided country and a state that recently banned critical race theory, sharing its history is more urgent than ever, Stewart says. “Do we embrace the legacy of the Guerrero?” he says, “or do we run away from it?”

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.