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