Much attention has been given to the 1619 arrival of captive Africans to the English colony of Virginia, and rightfully so. However, that does not represent the full story of the North American continent’s Middle Passage history. During September 2021, the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) will promote and mark 495 years of the mainland’s transatlantic human trade that began in 1526 near Sapelo Sound, Georgia.

Professor Jane Landers of Vanderbilt University specializes in colonial American-Iberian history. MPCPMP has asked her to provide background and information on the first attempt to establish a European settlement on the North American mainland. This colony, San Miguel de Gualdape, included a full shipment of captives specifically purchased with the approval of the king of Spain and brought directly from Africa to perform the labor of building and maintaining the community. What occurred in the settlement began not only the history of an on-going pattern of African enslavement and resistance but also the connection between Africans and First Nations people.

Building on her expertise and continuing research, Professor Landers is also the U.S. representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and was instrumental in assisting with the UNESCO Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty and Heritage designation of Site of Memory for 43 U.S. Middle Passage arrival locations. A Middle Passage marker is planned for installation at Darien, Georgia, the municipality closest to Sapelo Sound, to raise awareness of this history.

We hope that you will join us: