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From Gadsden's Wharf, USA to Valongo Wharf, Brazil
Nov 17 – Nov 30, 2022
Praising the Past

gadsdens wharf

There are places of such immense human suffering and calamity as to shock the conscience of the world. These sites, be they Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Auschwitz, or the Killing Fields of Cambodia, elicit near universal agreement that they must be eternally commemorated, if only to remind us of man's cruelty to other members of his species; what Sigmund Freud called those occasions "when man played the wolf to man."

At long last, and some would say after far too long a wait, two new sites of what today would be among the worst examples of crimes against humanity will soon be recognized in the western hemisphere. And the odds are that you have never heard of either of them.
Several slave merchants held their newly-imported human cargo in warehouses at Gadsden's Wharf well into the spring of 1808, in an effort to drive prices higher as the last legally-imported supply of fresh human chattel dwindled.
Gadsden's Wharf: Charleston, South Carolina, USA.
Charleston is the place where nearly half of all enslaved Africans brought to America first set foot on U.S. soil. Some experts believe that as many as 80 percent of African Americans can trace an ancestor back to the wharf.

According to Dr. Nic Butler in his "The Story of Gadsden's Wharf," the area was originally "a brackish marsh that was washed by daily tides." In 1720, Thomas Gadsden, a merchant, purchased 63 acres of the land from Isaac Mazyck, who had received a grant of 90 acres along the Cooper River in 1696. Seven years later Gadsden sold it to Captain George Anson. Three decades later, Christopher Gadsden, the son of Thomas, bought back most of the land and set about  improving his property, buying more land and constructing his own wharf.

By 1769, he advertised for 12 "strong able bodied country negroes who can handle the spade...for whom he will allow very good wages." Even at this date, Charleston was already thick with slave dealers.

By 1800, there were rumors of a coming federal ban on the importing of enslaved Africans. Gadsden's Wharf's infamy was approaching, greatly aided by time, circumstance, and opportunity.

Christopher Gadsden died in 1805. His son, Philip picked up the reins of the business. The following year, the Charleston City Council limited the importation of "...negroes from abroad...to Gadsden's Wharf only. The exact reasons are unknown.

Dr. Butler advances theories that include "wharf congestion, monetary inducement, the advantage of the wharf’s location on what was then the edge of the city, or family issues?" We may never know. Like pouring water through a large funnel into a small shot glass, Gadsden's Wharf could not contain the flood of kidnapped, captured, chained Africans.

Dr. Butler reports that just "...between late February 1806 and late December 1807 proved to be the most intense and horrific episode in the sad history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to North America. The Charleston Times, 2 January 1808, reported that approximately 26,000 people had arrived during this brief period but more recent data...suggest the number was more like 30,000 people in nearly 200 voyages.

During this era, mortality rates soared as greed and exploitation won the day. In a final demonstration of this fact, several slave merchants held their newly-imported human cargo in warehouses at Gadsden's Wharf well into the spring of 1808, in an effort to drive prices higher as the last legally-imported supply of fresh human chattel dwindled.

In the interest of profit, humans packed into warehouses died of fevers, exposure, and frostbite. Somewhere in the wharf's vicinity is believed to be a mass grave of some 800 quarantined Africans who perished during the frigid winter of 1807.  Dr. Butler concludes by suggesting that "...it might be reasonable to say that more Africans were sold into slavery at Gadsden's Wharf than at any other site in North America." And the Civil War was more than 50 years away.
The International African American Museum sits on the former site of Gadsden Wharf in downtown Charleston. It is expected to open the weekend of January 21, 2023.

Part 2 - The Fall of Charleston and The Rise of Freedom
Part 3 - Blood on The Palm Trees
Part 4 - In Memory and Healing

Free ZOOM Lecture:
Forgotten Battlefront: Africa & World War II
C.R. Gibbs
Fri, Nov 18,7p

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