DuSable follows slave trade from West Africa to Americas

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From the early 1700s until the end of the Civil War more than four million African captives were brought to America and sold as slaves. (WLS)

From the early 1700s until the end of the Civil War more than four million African captives were brought to America and sold as slaves. An exhibit at The DuSable Museum of African American History tells their story.

Starting September 19, the DuSable is exploring one of the most tragic chapters in American history: the story of the slave trade. More than eight million African captives were sold into slavery in South America and more than four million in North America.

"Our new exhibit is called the "Spirits of the Passage," about the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It gives you a full scope of what happened from the capture to arrival on these shores," Dr. Carol Adams, president of DuSable Museum of African American History, said.

The slave traders bought their captives in West Africa with goods purchased in Europe and America. They picked the healthiest and the strongest, the ones that could survive the journey.

"It was a horrific ordeal. It could last anywhere between four to nine weeks aboard the vessels in close quarters. Cramped," Chief Curator Charles Bethea said.

"People were dying and you'd be maybe next to someone like that. Some of the horrors of this were extreme. The cruelty of it," Dr. Carol Adams said.

To demonstrate what it must have been like, the exhibit lets you walk through the dark deck of slave ship. There's very little light and almost no food or water. About 25-percent of the slaves died on the way.

"Simply the slave trade was about finances. Money. How you could make the most money using free labor. In fact the average price for an African at the height of the slave trade was $400 in today's market and the dollar amount of work you would get out of that African was upward to $180,000," Bethea said.

The slave ship Henrietta Maria sank in 1700 just off of Key West. In 1972, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum found the ship and 80 sets of shackles, which is enough to restrain 160 slaves. The exhibit runs through January 4.


The DuSable Museum of African American History
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, Ill. 60637
(773) 947-0600
http://www.dusablemuseum.org/

Museum Hours
Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Sunday, Noon-5:00 p.m.
(Closed Mondays)

Related Topics:
societymuseum exhibitfrank mathiedusable museumChicago - Hyde Park
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