Boston’s “Port Marker” to formally honor and remember the Africans who died and those who survived the Middle Passage.
On October 13-15, 2020, a memorial marker will be installed at the East end of Boston’s Long Wharf. Boston’s “Port Marker” confronts the city’s history of slavery and formally honors and remembers the Africans who died and those who survived the transatlantic voyage known as the Middle Passage.
Between 1619 and 1865, millions of Africans were forcibly transported on the Middle Passage to slavery in North America. Boston’s Port Marker addresses the humanitarian issues of the Atlantic Ocean as the burial place of millions of Africans. Unknown numbers of Africans died due to sickness, injuries, disease, and rebellion on these ships. Survivors were sold into human bondage in places such as Newport, Charleston, and Boston. Other individuals from the Massachusetts, Wampanoag, and Nipmuc tribes, taken as prisoners of war during conflicts, were sold into slavery in the Caribbean.
UNESCO named 31 Middle Passage locations in the United States as Sites of Memory. The Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project was established to assist in conducting ancestral remembrance ceremonies and installing historic markers at each Middle Passage location. Boston held a dignified and uplifting ceremony on August 23, 2015 at Faneuil Hall. After the ceremony, a partnership was formed to commit themselves to install a port marker as a permanent remembrance to commemorate this history. The Partnership – comprised of the National Parks of Boston, Museum of African American History, Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, Boston Art Commission, and former State Representative Byron Rushing have worked for the last five years in researching, designing and creating an incredible exhibit modeled after the Norman Leventhal “Walk to the Sea” markers. The Port Marker, entitled “Coming from the Sea,” is solemnly positioned at the end of Long Wharf, looking toward the sea, to honor and remember all of those who came before.
“This marker is an integral addition to the historical landscape of our city. I hope this exhibit becomes a springboard for crucial and ongoing community conversations around race and equality in Boston and beyond,” said National Parks of Boston Superintendent, Michael Creasey.
Museum of African American History President, Leon Wilson, elaborates:
“The Middle Passage Marker signifies the evolution of a free black community that begins with the arrival of the first documented enslaved Africans on the shores of Boston in 1638. It demonstrates the challenges to people, who by necessity, created their own to establish their spaces to accomplish freedom. The Museum’s African Meeting House built in 1806 is one of those gathering spaces featured on the Marker. We are proud to acknowledge its completion to honor our ancestors; some lost in the journey across the Atlantic Ocean and the celebration of those who survived. We are delighted to join with other national ports, the City of Boston, NPS and our collaborative partners in this moment.”
Planning for a dedication ceremony for the Marker is underway. Stay tuned for an announcement for the date, time and options for virtual and place-based engagement.