Sunday, February 11, 2018

Black History Month: 'Great Acts of Human Endurance'

February is Black History Month in the U.S. so I thought I'd show you a visit to the Fort Moultrie museum and its excellent exhibit on slavery in Charleston.  

Charleston was the main port of entry in the U.S. for slaves from West Africa, with 200,000 to 360,000 men, women, and children arriving from 1707 to 1808 when their transport became illegal.  

Doctors from Charleston examined the passengers for illness when they arrived.  Many were taken from the ships and away from the city to Sullivan's Island and placed in quarantine in "pest houses" where they either died or got well and were readied for sale.  In quarantine they were held the shortest time possible to maximize profit.  Sometimes a ship's captain would sneak a ship of sick people into port to avoid the cost of quarantining them.  

On the right is a diagram by a former slave who wrote a book about his passage from Africa.  It shows how they were shackled for the 10-week trip to get the maximum cargo aboard.  

Slaves sold to plantations worked in the houses of the owners and the rice fields of South Carolina.  

Slaves who remained in the city sold crops at the market, worked on the docks and in the building industry, fished, and took care of the homes and children of their owners.  

Children were sold and worked the same as adults without regard for family ties.

The stories of most individuals are lost for all time as slaves were recorded on the ships' logs only by their approximate age and sex.  However, one little girl on the register of The Hare,10 years old, was sold to Elias Ball II, a rice planter near Charleston.  He paid about $100 for her and called her Priscilla.  

Elias Ball II

Priscilla's ancestors have traced her descendants from Sierra Leone to the present.  Two and a half centuries after Priscilla was taken from her home in Sierra Leone, a descendant, Charleston teacher Thomalind Pride, traveled with her husband to Freetown to meet her relatives.

She was welcomed with open arms.

This Jonathan Green painting concluded the exhibit.  It says:
"The survival of African people away from their ancestral home is 
one of the great acts of human endurance 
in the history of the world." 
--John Henrik Clarke


  1. Thank you very much indeed for presenting this fine report on a chapter of humanity which will leave the stain of shame on its history for all time. What humans can do to each other is beyond comprehension.

  2. One can't imagine how dreadful this slavery must have been for those people.
    Have read a series of books that of course are fiction but so true.

  3. It still boggles your mind to know this all happened. Man's inhumanity to man. And the awful thing is there are still people who somehow think it was OK.

  4. It never ceases to amaze how one person can do this to another and yet here we are and slavery is still around although in a different format.

  5. I just enlarged the poster that you photographed and see that it included people of 60 as well as babies as little as 5 months of age. Truly shocking.

  6. Oh that picture of the slaves shackled for 10 weeks, it sends shivers down your spine doesn't it? I was fascinated by this post though Cynthia, even though it is so sad.
    Wren x

  7. It is good to remember those terrible times.

  8. That sounds like a very balanced exhibit. I love that there was at least one reunion with relations from across the ocean. Have you seen any of the episodes of Henry Louis Gates' series on Finding Your Roots? There are some interesting stories found in that sleuth work.

    1. We love Finding Your Roots! It's amazing what they are able to dig up, especially for African Americans.

  9. Dear Cynthia, thank you for posting this story of the horrible passage across the Atlantic and then bondage for the rest of a person's life. In grad school, where I got a Master's in American Studies, I did sort of a minor in Southern and Black history. All the reading I did changed my whole view of our country and racism. It brought home to me the bitter and tragic history that is still woven throughout our society. I live in Missouri and here there are great pockets of intolerance. Peace.

  10. Shocking but unfortunately our first settlers - the convicts were sent out from Great Britain is similar
    conditions and that trip was far longer than the trip across the Atlantic.
    Cruelty really reigned supreme by the ruling classes of those terrible days. Sometimes I wonder just
    have we improved???????????
    Good historical report.

  11. It was a dark period in world history. Its great to hear that some find their relatives in Africa.

  12. How terrifying to be shackled like that just like an animal.

  13. Good report on a great tragedy the consequences of which are sadly still being felt in my ways today...:(

  14. Thanks for your kind words Cynthia , they're much appreciated. I'm afraid taking good care of myself is not going to be enough, I'm in the middle of chemo.

  15. Cynthia, my email is not working and your message came in blank.