African Passages museum exhibit unveiled at Fort Moultrie
By Carlin Timmons
March 03, 2009
(Sullivan’s Island, SC) – Join the National Park Service as we dedicate African Passages, a newly installed museum exhibit at the Fort Moultrie Visitor Center on Sunday afternoon, March 22. The event takes place at 3:00 pm on the grounds of the park at 1214 Middle Street on Sullivan’s Island. The new exhibit examines the role of Sullivan’s Island as a quarantine station during the international slave trade when Charleston was the main port of entry for captive Africans in North America. Historians estimate that slave ships brought 200,000 to 360,000 men, women and children into Charleston’s harbor. Between 1707 and 1799, when arriving ships carried infectious diseases, their free or enslaved passengers were quarantined either aboard ship or in island “pest houses.” This painful history makes Sullivan’s Island a gateway through which many African Americans can trace their entry into America.
The exhibit includes the haunting Middle Passage charcoal works of Thomas Feelings and the exuberant Gullah art of Jonathan Green. West African objects, leg shackles and an 1803 slave identification badge are among the artifacts on display that are on loan from the collection of the Avery Research Center for African American Culture at the College of Charleston. The story of Priscilla and her 7th generation granddaughter’s return to Sierra Leone provides a modern day link from Charleston across the Atlantic and three centuries. “The scholarship of historians Edward Ball and Joseph Opala uncovered this amazing connection from Sierra Leone to Sullivan’s Island. The story of Priscilla puts a face on those oppressed by slavery,” said Krista Kovach-Hindsley, NPS exhibit planner. With text written by journalist Herb Frazier, the exhibits were fabricated and installed by Studio Displays of Charlotte, NC. Seed money for the project was donated in 2004 by the Committee of Descendants, a foundation established by Ed Ball and his extended family. The Remembrance Committee of Charleston has also been instrumental in seeing the project completed.
“This is a story of national and international significance that is central to the birth and growth of the United States,” stated Superintendent Bob Dodson. “It is a powerful story of strength and endurance that will touch people on a personal level. I am very grateful for the grass roots support of this long awaited exhibit. The Charleston community has been looking forward to the completion of this project for some time now. The exhibit builds on the commemorative marker installed in 1999 and Toni Morrison’s Bench by the Road placed on park grounds in 2008. I hope for a good turnout at the dedication, when we will honor the ancestors and the survivors of this difficult step in the American journey.”
The 3:00 pm program will include music, drumming and a libation. In case of inclement weather the program will be moved into the auditorium. For more information, call the park at (843) 883-3123.