Reminders of the unspeakable inhumanity of slavery

Bermuda (UK) image number 431 graphic depiction of how slaves were kept below decks

This is the eighth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

I visited two sites which reminded me of the unspeakable inhumanity of slavery.
The Charles H Wright Museum of African American history is superb. From the very origins of humanity from one common mother, revealed via mitochondrial DNA, “And still we rise” tells the story of African Americans in great detail with very attractive displays.

One element really did have a great impact on me. You walk through a dark tunnel which is a mock-up of below decks in a slave ship – the sort which crossed the Atlantic. Slowly, your eyes adjust to see rows and rows of (model) people who are bound by iron shackles to wooden frames. The people cannot even lie straight on their backs – they are all lying on their sides and close up to each other. Like sardines. You hear the sounds of their groaning and crying. And most of all, their eyes are all looking at you.

My goodness, what a powerful reminder of the hell that people went through on those voyages!

Later I had a saunter through Court Square, Montgomery, Alabama. It is a lovely square with a beautiful fountain (see photo below). Then, upon reading a historic plaque, I read that this is where slaves were bought and sold. The main Alabaman slave market.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Sue Sutherland 8th Oct '17 - 1:19pm

    The African slave trade was undoubtedly the most obscene act against other human beings until the Holocaust. It is the industrial scale of the activity that, to me, is the most repulsive aspect. It is treating fellow human beings as if they are inanimate objects on a production line.
    I watched a TV program in which Michael Johnson and Ussain Bolt discussed why black athletes are so successful. They agreed that anyone who survived the voyages and then a life of slavery had to be amazingly fit, so those genes had been passed down to present day African Americans and those from the Caribbean, resulting in superb athletes.
    We must never forget that we are capable of inflicting these horrors on others and watch out for any sign that people are being regarded as objects so we can take action before it’s too late. I’m very afraid that we may be at the beginning of this type of cycle of behaviour now. The fear of strangers must be challenged over and over again and people must be helped to see the humanity behind the foreign accent, the different skin colour and alternative religious beliefs.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Oct '17 - 1:38pm


    This is at the heart of the story of the musical I have written and am trying to get to the stage , and the doors that open to that are opening to the wider effect that knowledge and feeling about this horrific and fascinating subject give us.

    I have spent a great deal of time getting into the sense of it to express it fully and do it the justice it deserves.

    These inspiring articles from the trip you have taken are adding further , levels of enthusiasm and belief in this project, which means a lot.

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