Why the Middle Passage?

Many people have questioned the Middle Passage as the focal point of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP). Why choose this as a defining point of history related to Africans and their descendants? We are often asked why not start in Africa? There are three reasons: All people who were captives from the African Continent had to endure the Middle Passage to arrive in Europe or the Read More


As the state with the nation’s longest history of documented African presence, the Project is interested in highlighting Florida’s Middle Passage sites. We intend to honor ancestors and highlight the influence of Africans and their descendants in developing Florida. This is not an easy task since those in power in a region long considered an outpost or frontier, traditionally supported a pattern of smuggling and unregulated business. Those who invested Read More

Widening the Field

Recently, the Project was contacted by Jonathan Highfield, Professor of Postcolonial Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) Department of Literary Arts and Studies, to explore the possibility of collaboration with us on Middle Passage history.  Fifteen members of his class, Dialogue across the Diaspora, will travel to South Africa to assist students at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town to mount an Read More

Source Documents for Blog Posts (February – April, 2012)

Audio/Visual: “First Time I Saw Big Water” Composed and produced by Bernice Johnson Reagon, performed by Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon for the PBS-WGBH film series Africans in America, Executive Producer, Orlando Bagwell “Betye Saar, National Visionary”: National Visionary Leadership Project: African American History. The video consists of ten interviews in which Ms. Saar personally relates her artistry, family background, professional experiences and influences during a life time dedicated Read More

Why History?

During the past several weeks, board members of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project have found themselves frequently in conversations with people who suggest that we sustain a more formal educational component, something beyond this blog. One comment was that the United States in particular does not value history or anything in the past. Our people were described as more comfortable in the present or headed into the Read More


How low can you go? We are talking “limbo.” Is this a dance? A competition? A workout? An historical artifact? Any and all of the above? An essay written by the late French scholar Genevieve Fabre about the limbo recently crossed our radar. We were well aware through research that during the Middle Passage voyage a routine of daily exercise was established by slave traders for captive Africans. Movement, primarily Read More

Digging Up the Story

Four years ago (2008) archeologists began to excavate a portion of an African burial ground in preparation for building a road to a new airport financed by the British government. This site is just uphill from the capital city, Jamestown. This is not Jamestown, Virginia but on St. Helena Island in the South Atlantic. Ironically it involves the same people, same story – British settlers and African slaves. The cemetery Read More

Saltwater Africans

The term “saltwater African” is not familiar to many. It specifically refers to Africans who survived the Middle Passage. They had come across the ocean, the salt water. For the first two hundred years in the Americas there was a continuous supply of this population. Until Africans in the Diaspora were able to maintain fertility rates that lessened the demand to import, a majority of the black population, particularly in Read More

Source Documents for Blog Visitors, February 2012

This project is committed to getting out information to those who are interested. We pledged to provide readers quarterly with materials that we base the posts upon, so here are the second quarter’s materials as promised by category with annotation. Articles: African Burial Ground Project: paradigm for cooperation? by Michael Blakey (Museum International, UNESCO, 2010). Professor Blakey is on our project’s advisory board and worked continuously on the Manhattan African Burial Ground Project. Read More

Captured African Women

In 2012, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) will focus attention on the role of women in African American history. With a scheduled conference in the fall, a call for papers has gone forth to scholars. We are especially looking forward to presentations related to the Middle Passage. The role of African women in resisting enslavement and enabling emancipation leaves little doubt that their Read More