As a fifteen year old tenderfoot building boats, Ansil Saunders would’ve never believed he’d one day become a national hero. Stemmed from Scotland, his extended family of boat builders would eventually build the most sought after bonefish skiffs on an Island in the Bahamas. Five generations later, Bimini’s Saunders was not only working with local wood to build skiffs, but he too started to guide and eventually became legendary by catching the all-tackle world record 16 pound bonefish (which still stands today) with angler, Jerry Lavenstein.
But there was a daunting cloud that always bothered him, people treated him differently because of the color of his skin. Bimini’s “Big Game Club” wouldn’t serve black people, and at twenty one years of age he walked in and demanded equality. For forty days he was turned away and on the forty first the tide turned and black men and women were finally welcomed.
Saunders, Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all had the same dream of an equal playing field for the black man. Dr. King went to the Bahamas seeking a peaceful place to write his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. It was Ansil that took Dr. King to Bonefish creek to write his legendary oration. Years later he would return to write his striking sanitation workers speech. Four days later Dr. King was assassinated.
Saunders’ was the Chairman of the Progressive Liberation Party for fourteen years. Bimini declared Independence in 1973. He also started the Boy’s and Girls Club in 1969. His goal was to educate the younger generation so that they too may continue to “Level the Playing field!”
Ansil Saunders is a National Treasure. It was a special honor to get to know him and have him and his son, Tyrone, in my home. And it’s perfect that we bring you his story on Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. Day…