Boston and the Middle PassageOn August 23, 2015, a ceremony recognizing Boston as a Middle Passage port site took place at Faneuil Hall.
This event is part of a larger effort by the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP), an international, grassroots organization dedicated to commemorating the more than 2 million people who perished in the Middle Passage of the transatlantic human trade and the 10 million who survived. Partnering with historical and cultural societies, academic institutions, churches, visitor and tourist bureaus, and community organizations, the MPCPMP’s aim is to research, identify, and facilitate remembrance ceremonies at all ports of captive Africans’ entry during the 350 years of the transatlantic human trade in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
The August 23, 2015 Boston ceremony acknowledges the city as a port receiving enslaved people who survived the international slave trade, as well as the vital role that Africans and their descendants played in the development of both the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the United States.
Video of the event is now available, both the full ceremony and highlights:
To read more about the Middle Passage, see the Special Edition of the Boston African American National Historic Site Newsletter, reposted with permission on this site.
Slavery in Colonial Boston
The exact date of when Massachusetts Bay Colony became a slave-holding colony is debatable. What is known, however, is that it was the first New England colony to enslave Africans and to legalize slavery. The first recorded shipment of enslaved Africans arrived in 1638 on the Massachusetts-built ship The Desire, which exchanged indigenous Pequot prisoners of war for captive Africans in the West Indies.
The Middle Passage is the transatlantic voyage that transported captive Africans to the Americas. This segment of the human trade involved several facets of international commerce. The port of Boston from which slave ships arrived and departed was an integral part of that system. The financing and outfitting of ships with supplies touched on multiple trades in the city, encompassing governors and bankers as well as fisherman and carpenters. More than its deep roots in the financial growth of Boston, the Middle Passage changed the social fabric of the city. Enslaved people and their descendants lived, worked, and helped shape the city from its colonial infancy to its growth into a major US metropole.
Leading up to the August 2015 Boston Middle Passage program, this website will add more educational resources on slavery in Boston from local and global perspectives. For more information, consult our list of resources, blog, and other materials found in the menu above. You can also click on the images on this page to learn more about this history.
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