Enslavement has been called the “peculiar institution.” As a practice that is as old as mankind, its very longevity was an argument supporting continued acceptance. We realize that enslavement is based upon the exercise of power, and everything else is secondary. On the other hand, during the 17th and 18th Centuries, a body of thought called “The Enlightenment” emerged and advocated for equality, liberty, justice and freedom. Initially applied selectively by its proponents, we are now witnessing global application and acceptance of these enlightened principles. The old way is slowly giving way to opposing concepts that now place these rights naturally in the hands of each person: Power to the People, Black Power, the Arab Spring, Liberation Theology, One Man One Vote. Over the long haul, this could be evidence of human progress, but it has been costly, slow and tedious.

In determining when humans turned the corner from enslavement and toward enlightenment the historic pin mark is placed on the maps of Europe and the Americas. For a variety of reasons, enlightened intellectuals credit themselves for pushing back against oppression, but for any victim of enslavement, resistance began immediately – as soon as freedom was denied. There are separate components of the anti-slavery movement of the 18th Century: abolition of the trade, anti-slavery and emancipation. None of these occurred all at once. Do we credit the chicken? Or was it the egg?

In his work, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution 1770-1823 (1975), historian David Brion Davis outlines the development of the demise of enslavement in Europe and the Americas. It is best to simply include his thoughts:

The emergence of an international antislavery opinion represented a momentous turning point in the evolution of man’s moral perception, and thus in man’s image of himself.

Speaking only for myself, I am prepared to believe that nothing in history is absolute or clear-cut; that truth is always framed in ambiguity; that good and evil are always colored by human ambivalence; that all liberations are won at a cost; that all choice involves negation. I also think that history is filled with moral ironies, and that one can point to ironies but never prove them.

The following is an excerpt from his book:

A Calendar of Events Associated with Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Emancipation, 1770-1823

1770      Abbe Raynal’s Histoire philosophie et politique des etablissemens et du     commerce des Europeen dans les desux Indes calls for a “Black Spartacus” to arise in the New World to avenge the rights of nature. (France)

1771      A bill passed by the Massachusetts assembly to end slave importations fails to win the governor’s assent. (British American Colonies-US)

1772      The Somerset decision is popularly interpreted as outlawing slavery in England,. Correspondence between Granville Sharp and Anthony Benezet begins, opening the way for continuing communication between Anglo-American abolitionists. (England)

The Virginia House of Burgesses enacts a prohibitive duty on slave imports, and requests the crown to accept this curtailment of “a Trade of great Inhumanity”; the crown disallows the bill. (British American Colonies-US)

1773      Massachusetts blacks petition the legislature for relief from oppression.  Leicester and other Massachusetts town instruct their representatives to work for laws against both slavery and the slave trade. An increasing number of antislavery tracts are published, including two essays by Benjamin Rush. Samuel Hopkins and Ezra Stiles send a circular letter to New England churches, urging them to oppose the slave trade. (British American Colonies-US).

1774      The Continental Congress adopts a resolution banning slave importations and further American participation in the slave trade. Resolutions adopted by Virginia counties condemn the slave trade, and the Virginia Association orders an end to further slave imports. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends adopts rules forbidding Quakers to buy or sell slaves, and requires Quakers to prepare their bondmen for imminent emancipation. (British American Colonies- US)

1775      Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, promises freedom to any slaves who desert rebellious masters and who serve in the king’s forces, an offer taken up by some 800 blacks. Blacks serve in the colonial militia in the battles around Boston.                   Philadelphia Quakers help organize a Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. (British American Colonies-US)

1776      The Second Continental Congress resolves simply, “that no slaves be imported into any of the Thirteen United Colonies.” Delaware’s constitution prohibits the importation of slaves. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting directs local meetings of Friends to disown n any Quakers who resists final pleas to manumit his slaves. Congress deletes from the declaration of Independence Jefferson’s clause accusing the king of waging, “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere.” (United States)

1777      A royal decree prohibits the immigration of Negroes or mulattoes, whether slave or free. (France)

Vermont’s constitution outlaws slavery. North Carolina re-enacts a colonial law prohibiting private manumissions except for meritorious service approved by a court. (United States)

1778     The House of Commons appoints a committee to investigate the state of the slave trade. (Great Britain)

Virginia prohibits the importation of slaves (by statute, not by constitution). Maryland Quakers make slaveholding an offense warranting disownment. (United States)

1779     Granville Sharp tried to persuade Anglican bishops to oppose the slave trade. (Great Britain)

As war shifts to the Deep South, John Laurens of South Carolina proposes arming 3,000 slaves with the promise of freedom. Congress approves the proposal, but the South Carolina legislature rejects it. (united States)

1780    Pennsylvania adopts a gradual emancipation law. (United States)

1782    Virginia enacts a law allowing private manumissions. (United States)

1783    British Quakers form two committees to work against the slave trade, one an informal publicity group and the other an official committee of London Meeting for Sufferings. An official Quaker petition to end the slave trade is presented to Parliament. The Quakers print over 10,000 copies of The Case of Our Fellow Creatures, the Oppressed Africans, which are personally distributed among men of influence. Granville Sharp helps publicize the facts of the Zong case, in which 133 black had been thrown overboard at sea. (Great Britain)

American Quakers petition Congress to prohibit the slave trade. In Massachusetts, the case of Commonwealth v. Jennison is interpreted as removing any judicial sanctions for slavery. (United States)

1784     James Ramsay publishes his influential Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves. Both Ramsay and Sharp cooperate with Quaker abolitionists. (Great Britain)

Connecticut and Rhode Island enact gradual emancipation laws. Congress narrowly rejects Jefferson’s proposal to exclude slavery from all western territories after the year 1800.       The Pennsylvania Abolition Society is formed. The Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church adopts rules requiring Methodists to begin manumitting their slaves or to face excommunication. Virginia Quakers require members to free their slaves. (United States)

1785    New York’s Council of Revision fails to approve a bill for gradual emancipation because it would also deny political and civil rights to free blacks.  The New York Manumission Society is organized. The General Committee of Virginia Baptists condemns slavery as “contrary to the word of God.” The Methodists Conference at Baltimore decides to suspend the rule requiring gradual manumission. Jefferson publishes Notes on Virginia, portraying slavery as an unmitigated evil but suggesting that blacks are inherently inferior to whites. (United States)

1786    Thomas Clarkson publishes An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, which in 1785 had won a prize at Cambridge University. (Great Britain)

1787    The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade is formed, it is an extension of the unofficial Quaker slave trade committee. Clarkson travels to collect evidence for the Society. (Great Britain)

Constitutional Convention agrees to cont three-fifths of a state’s slave population in apportioning congressional representation. Congress is forbidden to end the slave trade until 1808.  The Constitutions requires that fugitive slaves who cross state lines be surrendered to their owners. The Continental Congress enacts the Northwest Ordinance, prohibiting slavery in the territories north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi rivers.       South Carolina enacts a temporary prohibition on slave imports.  Rhode Island responds to Quaker petitioning and forbids its citizens from participating in the slave trade. (United States)

1788    The Societe des Amis des Noirs is formed; it enters into correspondence with the London, Philadelphia, and New York abolition societies. (France)

The London Society helps to organize a national petition campaign against the slave trade.   Parliament passes a law regulating the conditions of the slave trade. The Privy Council Committee for the Trade and Plantations conducts an inquiry into British commercial relations with Africa. Provincial abolitions societies organize. (Great Britain)

Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania forbid their citizens from participating in the slave trade. (United States)

1789    With the calling of the Estates General, the Amis des noirs urge the nation to follow the illustrious example of the United States, and to free the slaves in the colonies. The Amis make their first goal, however, the abolition of the slave trade. Clarkson visits France, furnishing the Amis with evidence against the slave trade.  French mulattoes appear before the bar of the National Assembly, futilely petitioning to be seated as colonial delegates. The Assembly accepts the representation of white colonists who, with their merchant allies, prevent debate on the slave trade. (France)

In Parliament, William Wilberforce introduces twelve resolutions against the slave trade, a subject eloquently debated in the Commons. Despite a flood of petitions, the Commons insists on hearing further evidence, after which it turns to other matters. (Great Britain)

Delaware forbids its citizens from engaging in the slave trade.                                               The Providence (Rhode Island) Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade is formed. (United States)

1790    The Constituent Assembly accepts the report of the Committee on Colonies.      The Assembly agrees not to interfere with the slave trade.  The colonies will have the right to submit constitutions for approval. Any attempts to incite thee slaves will be treason.             Royal troops disperse the rebellious assembly at St. Marc in St. Dominique.  The Constituent Assembly orders the dissolution of general assemblies in the colonies, but promises not to interfere “with the status of persons.”  Vincent Oge leads a mulatto uprising in St. Dominique, but it is crushed and he is executed. (France)

A Select Committee of the House of Commons examines witnesses on the slave trade. (Great Britain)

Both the Quakers and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society petition Congress to use its fullest Constitutional powers to discourage slavery and the slave trade. The petitions evoke angry debate and attacks on the Quakers by Congressmen from the Deep South. In Richmond the Virginia Abolition Society is organized. (United States)

1791    The Assembly extends suffrage rights to all colonists, regardless of color, who are born of fee parents, and who meet the property requirements.  Civil war breaks out in St. Dominique, and the slaves of the North Province rise in mass insurrection.  The Assembly backtracks and renounces its jurisdiction over the status of persons in the colonies (France)

The Commons continues to examine witnesses and to debate the slave trade, but rejects a motion by Wilberforce to introduce an abolition bill. Parliament grants a charter to the Sierra Leone Company, which for four years has been promoting the colonization of British free Negroes in Africa. The Company commits itself to opposition of the slave trade. (Great Britain)

1792    The new Legislative Assembly now decrees equal rights for all free blacks and mulattoes in the colonies, and appoints civil commissioners to enforce its decrees and to help suppress the slave revolt.  St. Dominique is engulfed in complex racial and civil war. (France)

After much oratory, the Commons votes to terminate the slave trade in 1796, but the bill fails to win assent in the House of Lords, which adopts tactics of delay. A popular movement to boycott slave-grown sugar gains momentum, but domestic political conflict and repressive reaction begin to weaken the antislavery movement, especially in towns like Manchester.   The Sierra Leone Company sends off a further fleet to Africa, carrying black refugees from the American Revolution, many of whom had first been taken to Nova Scotia. (Great Britain)

An antislavery petition from the Quaker, Warner Mifflin, provokes angry words in Congress, which refuses to accept it.  Kentucky is admitted as the first new slave state. (United States)

A royal ordinance requires an end to slave imports in the Danish colonies by 1803. (Denmark)

1793    France is now at war with England and Spain, both of which invade St. Dominique. Toussaint L’Overture and other black leaders fight for a time on the Spanish side. White planters welcome English troops and also try to appease mulattoes. The French civil commissioners who had been sent by the Legislative Assembly, along with a large army, become involved in the civil war. After Commissioner Leger-Felicite Sonthonax proclaims freedom to slaves of the North Province, to gain their military support, the commissioners issue a general emancipation decree. (France)

Upper Canada enacts a gradual emancipation law. In the House of Commons, Wilberforce now loses by eight votes on a motion to introduce a slave-trade abolition bill. The Commons also rejects a bill outlawing the British slave trade to foreign markets.  There is a marked decline in popular antislavery zeal and in the Abolition Committee’s funds. (Great Britain)

Congress passes a fugitive-slave law, as authorized by the Constitution.  Georgia excludes slave imports from the West Indies or Spanish Florida but is the only state still legally importing slaves from Africa.  The General Committee of Virginia Baptists now decides that emancipation is a political issue that belongs in the legislature, not the church. The New Jersey Abolition Society is formed.  The invention by Eli Whitney of the cotton gin opens the way for the cultivation of short-staple cotton through much of the South. (United States)

1794    The Convention outlaws slavery in all the French colonies and extends the rights of citizenship to all men regardless of color. Toussaint and his followers shift from the Spanish side and join the forces of the French Republic. The British capture Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Lucia, though the latter two colonies are eventually recaptured by French armies that include many former slaves. (France)

Congress prohibits Americans from engaging in the slave trade to foreign countries.   The Connecticut assembly passes a bill for immediate emancipation requiring masters to care for old and disabled blacks and providing for the education of Negro children. The council refuses to give the bill its assent.  In Philadelphia, the first meeting is held of the Convention of Delegates from the Abolition Societies. (United States)

1796    Wilberforce’s bill for abolition of the slave trade is defeated by four votes in the House of Commons which in 1795 had rejected his motion by a wide margin. (Great Britain)

1797    British troops continue to suffer heavy casualties in St. Dominique. Toussaint, now allied with the mulatto General Andre Rigaud, continues to win victories.

The Directory sends General Gabriel-Marie Hedouville to take charge of St. Dominique. The British capture Trinidad from Spain, now an ally of France. (France)

Parliament accepts proposals from Charles Rose Ellis, representing the planter interest, that the crown recommend to the colonial legislatures measures that would encourage a natural increase in slaves and thus eventually render the slave trade unnecessary. (Great Britain)

1798    British forces begin withdrawal from St. Dominique, having concluded a treaty with Toussaint. The struggle begins between mulattoes (led by Rigaud and encouraged by Hedouville) and blacks (led by Toussaint). (France)

Georgia prohibits further slave importation. Congress debates a motion to prohibit slavery from Mississippi Territory, and rejects it. (United States)

1799    New York State adopts a law for gradual emancipation. (United States)

1800    Toussaint wins full control of St. Dominique, and appoints Jean Dessalines governor of the South Province where the mulattoes have been defeated. (France)

Gabriel Prosser’s plot to seize Richmond with a large force of armed slaves is  uncovered. (United States)

1801    Toussaint captures Spanish Santo Domingo, unifying the island, and publishes a constitution which prohibits slavery forever and also makes him governor for life. Impending peace with England allows Napoleon to send a large expeditionary force, under General Charles Leclerc, to restore French authority in St. Dominique. (France)

1802    The French restore slavery in Guadeloupe, Martinique and other slave colonies are returned to France and her allies by treaty during the brief period of peace. Of her Caribbean conquests, Britain retains only Trinidad. The blacks and mulattoes of St. Dominique fight Napoleon’s troops, but Toussaint is captured by treachery and shipped to France. (France)

Governor William Henry Harrison, of Indiana Territory, call a convention at Vincennes, at which appeals are made to Congress to suspend the Northwest Ordinance and allow slaves to be brought into the territory. A later indentured-servants act allows defacto slavery. (United States)

1803    Slavery and the color line are formally restored in the French colonies.  Resumption of war with England serves to isolate the French army in St. Dominique, where it is now suffering heavy casualties both from guerilla war and yellow fever. Dessalines finally forces the French army to withdraw and to surrender an English fleet. Dessalines proclaims the independence of Haiti from France.  Other French and Dutch colonies are seized by England. (France)

Louisiana Territory is purchased from France.  South Carolina opens her ports to the African slave trade. (United States)

1804    Haiti is established as an independent nation. Dessalines is proclaimed Emperor Jacques the First. (France)

A revival of anti-slave agitation occurs. A bill for abolition, proposed by Wilberforce, is passed by the House of Commons, but William Pitt’s cabinet postpones debate in the House of Lords, arguing that there is not sufficient time to hear evidence. (Great Britain)

Congress debates an act for the organization of Louisiana Territory, and decides to restrict incoming slaves to the bona-fide property of actual settlers, but rejects a motion to limit the bondage of such slaves to one year. In accordance with the treaty of purchase, the federal government recognizes the property rights of slaveholders who have been protected by French or Spanish law. New Jersey adopts an act for gradual emancipation. (United States)

1805    The House of Commons defeats a bill proposed by Wilberforce for abolishing the slave trade. Pitt issues and Order-in-Council stopping the African slave trade to foreign colonies conquered by Britain, and restricting the annual introduction of any slaves to those colonies to 3 per cent of existing slave populations. (Great Britain)

1806    Desalines is assassinated in Haiti and is succeeded by Henri Christophe. A struggle begins between the blacks led by Christophe and the mulattoes led by Alexandre Petion. (Haiti)

Pitt’s death leads to the Ministry of All Talents, and to secret government collaboration with the abolitionists. Parliament passes a law ending the British slave trade to foreign countries as well as to captures of ceded colonies.  Parliament also overwhelmingly approves a resolution by Charles James Fox that the entire slave trade should be abolished but no immediate action follows. (Great Britain)

President Jefferson urges Congress to prohibit slave trade as soon as the Constitutional restriction expires (after 1807).  Virginia passes a law requiring all slaves who are manumitted to leave the state within a year of their manumission.  President Jefferson secures an embargo against any trade with Haiti. (United States)

1807    Lord Grenville secures passage in the House of lords of a bill abolishing the slave trade. The measure receives the crown’s approval after passing by an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons.  A proposal by Earl Percy for the gradual emancipation in the colonies and is disavowed by the abolitionists. The African Institution is formed as an organization to seek enforcement of the abolition law as well as to further civilization of Africa and the development of markets for commodities other than slaves.  The government of Sierra Leone is transferred to the crown, after considerable controversy over the private Sierra Leone Company’s management. (Great Britain)

Congress passes a law prohibiting Americans from participating in the African slave trade. (United States)

1808    Thomas Clarkson publishes his two-volume History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament. (Great Britain)

The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church decides to delete the rules on slavery from copies of its Discipline sent to the Deep South. (United States)

1810    Supreme Junta of Caracas proclaims the abolition of the slave trade.  In Mexico, Hildago issues an emancipation decree before his rebellious movement is crushed. Dom Joao, ruler of the Portuguese empire, submits to British pressure after earlier being escorted by the British from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro. He agrees to restrict the slave trade to certain geographic zones and to cooperate in eventually suppressing the trade entirely. (Latin America)

1811   Cuba remonstrates against proposals debated in the Spanish Cortes to prohibit the slave trade and to provide for the gradual emancipation in the colonies. (Latin America)

A law is passed making participation in the slave trade a felony. (Great Britain)

1812    A British Order-in-Council requires that Trinidad, captured from Spain in 1797 and denied a legislature of its own, set up a registry of slaves to help detect illegal importations. (Great Britain)

1814    Public pressure mounts in Great Britain to force France to abolish the slave trade, after the first Treaty of Paris sanctions a five-year postponement of French abolition. Other maritime nations either abolish the slave trade or make commitments to Britain. (Great Britain)

1815    Napoleon, during his one hundred days, decrees the abolition of the slave trade. The restored Bourbon government succumbs to British pressure and passes an ineffective law against slave trading. (France)

At the Congress of Vienna, British statesmen secure an abstract declaration condemning the slave trade.  In Parliament, British abolitionists move for a law requiring a centralized registration of all West Indian slaves, a plan that provokes heated controversy. (Great Britain)

1816    Simon Bolivar secures arms and supplies from Haiti, after promising Petion that he will promote the cause of emancipation in South America. In Venezuela, Bolivar offers freedom to slaves willing to fight the royalists.  Jose de San Martin also offers freedom to blacks who join his army in the invasion of Chile. (Latin America)

The American Colonization Society is formed to promote the colonization of free black in Africa. The newly formed African Methodist Episcopal Church denies membership to slaveholders.  George Bourne publishes The Book and Slavery Irreconcilable, the most radical abolitionist tract yet to appear in America. (United States)

1817    A treaty is signed with Portugal prohibiting the slave trade north of the equator but sanctioning the Portuguese-Brazilian trade south of the line.  A treaty is also signed with Spain prohibiting the trade north of the equator and providing total abolition in 1820.  Britain agrees to pay a fixed sum as compensation for Spain’s expected financial losses. (Great Britain)

New York State enacts a law, effective July 4, 1827, freeing all Negroes who would not have been freed before then by the gradual emancipation act of 1799.  In Philadelphia, James Forten leads a protest meeting of 3,000 blacks against the American Colonization Society. (United States)

1818    Great Britain fails at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle to secure international agreements on the right of search. (Great Britain)

Illinois drafts a state constitution and sharp conflict erupts over the question of slavery. In Congress, James Tallmadge, Jr., of New York, opposes admission of Illinois because its constitution does not contain a strong-enough prohibition of slavery. (United States)

1819    The Congress of Angostura rejects Bolivar’s pleas to ratify his military emancipation policies. The Congress commits itself to the principle of emancipation but affirms that blacks must first be prepared for freedom. (Latin America)

Parliament passes a compromise measure for the registration of colonial slaves, but it falls far short of abolitionist demands.  Courts of mixed commission are set up at Sierra Leone to adjudicate cases involving captured slave ships. (Great Britain)

A law authorizes the President to send armed vessels to Africa to Africa to suppress the illegal American slave trade.   Congressman John W. Taylor of New York proposes an amendments to a bill organizing Arkansas Territory, applying the principles of the Northwest Ordinance to Arkansas. The amendment is defeated in a close sectional vote.       James Tallmadge, Jr. introduces an amendment to the Missouri statehood bill that would prohibit the further introduction of slaves and would provide for gradual emancipation in Missouri. The fuse is thus ignited for the bitter Missouri controversy. (United States)

1820    Congress defines the slave trade as piracy.  The American Colonization Society sends an expedition to Africa to establish a settlement. The House and Senate are deadlocked over the question of admitting Missouri as a slave state, and here is some fear of civil war. As a compromise, Congress adopts an amendment that there shall be no restriction on slavery in Missouri, but that the institution will be prohibited from the unorganized Louisiana Territory north of 36/30 latitude. There is continuing agitation to refuse Missouri admission unless the state provides for gradual emancipation. (United States)

1821    The Societe de la moral chretienne is formed and appoints an antislave-trade committee.  The Chamber of Deputies had earlier rejected a petition of Joseph Morenas against the slave trade. (France)

The Congress of Cucuta adopts a gradual emancipation act for Gran Columbia.                 In Peru San Martin proclaims an end to the slave trade and provides for gradual emancipation. (Latin America)

Missouri is admitted to the Union after further controversy over the lack of an anti- slavery clause in the state constitution and over a clause restricting the entry of free blacks and mulattoes. Benjamin Lundy begins publishing his Genius of Universal Emancipation. (United States)

1822    The Congress of Verona marks the final failure of British attempts to win sanction for an international maritime police to suppress the slave trade.  Diplomatic pressure now focuses on Brazil, which declares her independence from Portugal and is thus free from previous treaty obligations.  British abolitionists begin to turn their attention to West Indian emancipation, and plan organized action to secure total though gradual abolition of slavery. (Great Britain)

A movement gets underway in Illinois to adopt a constitution legalizing slavery. The question leads to a heated political struggle and is not resolved until 1824. In South Carolina, Denmark Vessey’s planned slave rebellion is uncovered, adding fuel to southern fears of abolitionism and slave insurrection. (United States)

1823    Chile enacts a measure for general emancipation.  In Brazil, Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva resists British pressures for a definite commitment to abolish the slave trade. Though Bonifacio personally favors gradual emancipation and gives cautious expression to his principles, he is forced out of office partly because of his modern antislavery views. Brazil fails to adopt a proposed constitution that contains an article condemning slavery in principle. (Latin America)

The Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery is organized.  The Commons approve George Canning’s resolution for the amelioration of colonial Slavery, and the government recommends specific reforms to colonial governors. The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution 1770-1823 (1975), pp 23-36

This chronicle by year and region of events spans fifty-three years, and highlights how momentum builds upon a process that reflects two steps forward, one step back. A major draw back in Davis’ perspective is the failure to accurately reflect the influence and effect that the enslaved had upon this evolution. Perhaps the assumption is that their resistance and struggle were a given, were constant and natural, so not unusual or even perhaps important. Their quest for freedom was therefore unremarkable. This evolution, however, did not occur only by moral force. In ending slavery, compensation to the “owner” for “property” loss was routinely considered, yet even today loud objections against reparations to the enslaved and their descendants are made. Is it because the price would be too high to cover centuries of unpaid labor? It is as if enslavers suffered a material loss while the enslaved automatically benefited when they became part of an “enlightened” civilization.

The Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project looks at transatlantic enslavement from the other side, another point of view. The practice of honoring and remembering ancestors has gained momentum particularly over the past twenty years. We intend to ride the crest and acknowledge ancestors throughout the Black Atlantic. We will be part of a network that tells our story and provides a means for members of descendant communities to address and process this history as they see fit.

Professor Davis is correct:

Whatever one believes about historical progress – or the lack of it – we are the beneficiaries of past struggles, of the new and often temporary sensitivities of a collective conscience, and of brave men who thought that the time was right not only for appealing to unfulfilled promises of the past, but for breaking the proprieties of the present …

The one thing that is on-going, inevitable. Sterling Brown, African American Poet Laureate, puts it this way in Strong Men:

 The strong men . . . coming on                                                                                                           The strong men gittin’ stronger.                                                                                                      Strong men . . . .                                                                                                                                   Stronger . . . .