The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture will display objects from a slave ship that sank off the coast of Cape Town in 1794.

The artifacts were retrieved this year from the wreck site of a Portuguese slave ship that sank on its way to Brazil while carrying more than 400 enslaved Africans from Mozambique. Objects recovered from the ship, called the São José-Paquete de Africa, include iron ballasts used to weigh the ship down and copper fastenings that held the structure of the ship together.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the director of the African-American history museum, said in a statement that the ship “represents one of the earliest attempts to bring East Africans into the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

“This discovery is significant because there has never been archaeological documentation of a vessel that foundered and was lost while carrying a cargo of enslaved persons,” he said.

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture is currently under construction in Washington and scheduled to be completed in the fall.

The objects from the slave ship are to be on a long-term loan to the Smithsonian from the Iziko Museums of South Africa. Officials have known the site of the wreck for a number of years and suspected the ship was a slave ship, but research only recently confirmed it.

About half of the people on board the ship died when it sank. Others made it to shore but were sold back into slavery, according to the Smithsonian.

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  • Me

    “Others made it to shore but were sold back into slavery”

    this is evidence of how blind racism is & how little value is placed on humanity. to take hundreds of people on a ship against their will, watch half of them die, & then take the other half & be so determined to either sell them off or kill them in the process w/o blinking an eye that you ship them off on another boat. history is disgusting, but we can never forget.

    • Rizzo

      makes me wonder what the hell are the depths of non-african/non-black thinking is ‘today’ concerning african/african americans. the thought is horrifyingly frightening.

    • Me

      me too. i bet i wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if i knew it all.

    • Rizzo


    • Mary Burrell

      They say forget about it. It was so long ago, why do black people want to find an excuse to smear whites? That’s what they say to deflect and not have a discussion or ” My family did’nt own slaves”

    • Preach Sister.

    • Rizzo

      they have learned and perfected the psychology of manipulation – shift the blame back to the victim, minimize the issue, distort the facts, deflection, etc.
      whites had/have a few options open to them: they could have chosen not to participate in chattel slavery, or slavery of any kind; or, they could have chosen another group closer to their own physical characteristics to do their bidding.

  • We have to remember this history. History is not all good and we should always remember our ancestors who experienced the unspeakable crimes of the Maafa. The brutality found in that slave ship is indescribable. Africans were kidnapped against their will and force to go into a ship. Many of the slaves escaping from the ship and being re-enslaved is also reprehensible as well. Racism is not only evil, but it has lead into genocide throughout human history from the Maafa, the genocide of Native Americans, and to the Shoah. It is important to note that black people struggled too. Black people fought for their freedom in Africa, on the slave ships, and in the Americas. That struggle that our ancestors had live on in us today.


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