Tag: slave trade

International African American Museum in South Carolina Will Stand Where 100,000 Enslaved People Took 1st Steps on American Soil

by Manie Robinson via greenvilleonline.com

CHARLESTON – A swift, cool breeze lifts off the Cooper River. It frisks through the crowns of the towering palm trees that line the paved walkway. Small boats wobble in the calm waters on the east side of the Charleston peninsula. A neatly manicured patch of grass provides a tranquil spot for a blanket and a book. In the distance, the steel cables of the Ravenel Bridge stretch in splendor. To the right, flags fly over Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Soon, this waterfront will be home to the International African American Museum. The $100 million, 40,000-square foot facility will bridge solemn history and modern magnificence. It will offer captivating exhibits, engaging events and a breathtaking view of the Charleston Harbor.

However, this land is more than prime riverfront real estate. It connects deeply to the heritage the museum aims to commemorate. Ship voyage records reveal that nearly half of the enslaved Africans who were shipped to North America disembarked in Charleston. Many slaves took their first steps on American soil on this patch of land, which was once the largest wharf in North America. Historians estimate that more than 90 percent of all African-Americans can trace at least one ancestor to this land.

Eighteen years ago, former Charleston mayor Joe Riley pledged to build an iconic museum that honors that heritage and illuminates the achievements cultivated from that regrettable past. Since then, 37 other museums dedicated to African-American history and culture have been constructed. However, IAAM supporters contend that this land grants it a distinctive, visceral magnetism.

Riley’s vision has attracted support from city, county and state government, local business owners, national organizations and historians. Yet, Riley and IAAM chief executive officer and president Michael Boulware Moore (who is the great-great-great grandson of Civil War Hero and Congressman Robert Smalls) must raise millions more before construction can begin.

Moore’s passion for this project is personal. When he walks this pristine patch of grass, he can hear the shackles rattling as they dragged against the wooden planks. He can see his great-great-great-great grandmother walking across the wharf. “We know that she landed here. That’s sort of my original anchor to Charleston. It’s really deep emotional territory for me,” Moore said. “Every time I go, it hits me.”

“I understand the history that occurred there,” he said. “I understand tens of thousands of people, including my ancestors, disembarked there in chains. I am confronted by the emotions that must have been felt on that space and just by the enormity of what happened.”

The land’s significance

This serene site was once the epicenter of America’s ugliest enterprise. Nearly 250 years ago, this area was merely brackish marsh. Charleston merchant Christopher Gadsden converted it into the largest wharf in North America. It covered 840 feet from the Charleston Harbor to East Bay Street, between what are now Calhoun and Laurens Streets. Initially, Gadsden’s Wharf primarily serviced the rice industry. Eventually, it became a hub of the international slave trade. From 1783 to 1808, approximately 100,000 enslaved African men, women and children were forced into ships and carried on a voyage through darkness across the Atlantic Ocean into the Charleston Harbor.

According to historian and former South Carolina Historical Society archivist Nic Butler, on Feb. 17, 1806, the City Council of Charleston passed an ordinance stipulating that all vessels importing enslaved Africans port in Gadsden’s Wharf. Enslaved Africans were stored like crops in a wharf warehouse. Shackled to despair, hundreds of men, women and children died from fevers or frostbite. They were buried unceremoniously in a nearby mass grave. Those who survived those subhuman conditions were advertised in newspapers, sold and dispersed.

“Some have described it as the enslaved Africans’ Ellis Island,” University of South Carolina history professor Bobby Donaldson said. “If you can imagine people who endured and survived the Middle Passage from West Africa across the Atlantic, Gadsen’s Wharf is where they see land, where they see a dark and unknown future.”

Slaves were taken to different corners of the fledgling country. They toiled in fields to quicken the economy and fostered a lineage of influential American inventors, educators, soldiers, politicians, writers, philosophers, entrepreneurs, entertainers, activists and athletes.

Continue reading “International African American Museum in South Carolina Will Stand Where 100,000 Enslaved People Took 1st Steps on American Soil”

Michigan State University Receives $1.5 Million Grant to Build Slave Trade and Ancestry Database

MSU African Studies Center Facebook Cover Photo (via facebook)

via newsone.com

$1.5 million grant gifted to Michigan State University by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will go towards the cultivation of a database that harbors information about former slaves, MSU Today reported.

The database, which is part of the institution’s Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade initiative, will encompass data surrounding those who came to America during the Atlantic slave trade; giving individuals the opportunity to explore their ancestry, the news outlet writes. Individuals who utilize the database will also be able to view maps, charts, and graphics about enslaved populations.

The project is being spearheaded by Dean Rehberger, director of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU, Walter Hawthorne, professor and chair of MSU’s Department of History and Ethan Watrall, who serves as an assistant professor of anthropology at the university.

MSU Today reports that the project will go through several phases and take nearly a year and a half to be completed.

Hawthorne believes that the database will allow scholars to delve deeper into the dark history of slavery. “By linking data compiled by some of the world’s foremost historians, it will allow scholars and the public to learn about individuals’ lives and to draw new, broad conclusions about processes that had an indelible impact on the world,” he said in a statement, according to the source.

Michigan State University has one of the top African history graduate programs in the country and leaders at the institution believe that this new project will further its impact in this space. Institutions who have partnered with MSU for the project include Emory University, Vanderbilt University, Harvard University, the University of Maryland and others.

Slavery has been a common topic at colleges and universities across the country with many institutions coming forward to acknowledge and come to terms with their ties to slavery. Rutgers University recently paid tribute to former slaves by renaming parts of its campus after individuals who built the university from the ground up.

Source: MSU Today

“Black Tudors: The Untold Story” by Historian Miranda Kaufmann Debunks Idea That Slavery Was Start of Africans’ Presence in England 

Portrait of a Moor by Jan Mostaert, early 16th century (image via theguardian.com)

by Bidisha via theguardian.com

Within moments of meeting historian Miranda Kaufmann, I learn not to make flippant assumptions about race and history. Here we are in Moorgate, I say. Is it called that because it was a great hub of black Tudor life? “You have to be careful with anything like that,” she winces, “because, for all you know, this was a moor. It’s the same with family names and emblems: if your name was Mr Moore, you’d have the choice between a moorhen or a blackamoor. It wouldn’t necessarily say something about your race.”

Her answer – meticulous, free of bombast, dovetailing memorable details with wider issues – is typical of her first book Black Tudors: The Untold Story, which debunks the idea that slavery was the beginning of Africans’ presence in England, and exploitation and discrimination their only experience. The book takes the form of 10 vivid and wide-ranging true-life stories, sprinkled with dramatic vignettes and nice, chewy details that bring each character to life.

Africans were already known to have likely been living in Roman Britain as soldiers, slaves or even free men and women. But Kaufmann shows that, by Tudor times, they were present at the royal courts of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James I, and in the households of Sir Walter Raleigh and William Cecil. The book also shows that black Tudors lived and worked at many levels of society, often far from the sophistication and patronage of court life, from a west African man called Dederi Jaquoah, who spent two years living with an English merchant, to Diego, a sailor who was enslaved by the Spanish in Panama, came to Plymouth and died in Moluccas, having circumnavigated half the globe with Sir Francis Drake.

Kaufmann’s interest in black British history came about almost by accident: she intended to study Tudor sailors’ perceptions of Asia and America for her thesis at Oxford University, but found documents demonstrating the presence of Africans within Britain. “I’d never heard anything about it, despite having studied Tudor history at every level. When I went to the National Archive for the first time, I asked an archivist where to start looking and they were like: ‘Oh well, you won’t find anything about that here.’”

Kaufmann kept digging, contacted local record offices and ultimately built up to her book. So why has the existence of black Tudors been unknown, untold and untaught? “History isn’t a solid set of facts,” she replies. “It’s very much about what questions you ask of the past. If you ask different questions, you get different answers. People weren’t asking questions about diversity. Now they are.” Continue reading ““Black Tudors: The Untold Story” by Historian Miranda Kaufmann Debunks Idea That Slavery Was Start of Africans’ Presence in England “