This model was made by an unknown artist in the first half of the 20th century. The ship and the figures are not to scale. Nor are the figures arranged in an historically accurate way. Yet the object speaks an emotional truth. Most of the artist's work has been poured into the carving of the figures on board the ship. They are each hand-carved and represent different people in different states - some with ribs showing, others with rounded bellies, tall, short, male and female. The emotion invested in the carvings is palpable.
Scholars estimate that of every group of 100 people seized in Africa, only 64 would survive the march from the interior to the coast; only 57 would board ship; and just 48 would live to be placed in slavery in the Americas.
Source: Nancy Bercaw, Curator, Slavery and Freedom
This model of a slave ship consists of a wooden hull (a), a removable deck (b), and a wooden stand (c).
The wooden hull (a) is made of a soft wood painted black on the outside, with a cream border around the top where sixteen square holes are carved, eight on each side. The interior of the hull is painted cream. At the interior of the stern is an enclosed white structure. A functioning door is attached at the center front of the enclosed structure, with carved slats and a small metal pin as a door knob. Two stained wooden circular pieces reach up out of the hull from the lower deck and extend above the removable upper deck (b) when it is in place. The rudder of the ship is functional. The exterior front of the bow has a decorative curled element with a carved outline detail. Above this is a stained wooden circular piece that protudes from the bow as a bowsprit. The lower deck has two rectangular cut-outs trimmed in cream raised edges. The one nearest the bow is larger than the one nearest the stern. They correspond to the rectangular openings on the removable deck (b). These cutouts are open to the hold. Lined along the lower deck are carved ivory figures painted or stained black. Each figure is an individually carved piece adhered to the ship, with individualized faces, bodies, and heights. Additional figures are visible in the hold from the rectangular openings. The figures are adult males and females, and some short figures may be meant to represent children or adolescents. All of the figures are wearing cloths around their genitals, but are bare-chested.
The removable deck (b) is made of a soft wood painted black on the top and left untreated on the bottom. The top of the deck has four cut-outs that are trimmed in cream painted wood. The first and third cut-outs from the bow are circular, the second is a rectangle with a raised cream edge, and the fourth is a rectangle with a box-like cream structure that is open on the back side but with a covered roof. In addition to the four larger cutouts there are two small square cut-outs in front of and flanking the circular cutout nearest the bow that are not trimmed in white detailing. There are three small holes, one at each side and one in front of the circular cut-out nearest the stern also not trimmed in white. There are two sets of two small holes at the edges of the deck flanking the cream roofed structure nearest the stern.
The stand (c) is made from wood and formed of two quatrefoil endcaps and a center dowel. There is decorative outline carving on the endcaps. The dowel is attached at a slight angle to accomodate the slope of the hull (a). The bottom of the hull sits parrallel to the dowel, resting on red wool pads that are adhered along the top edges of the endcaps. The wood is stained with a dark finish, of a different color than the black painted hull. The stand was clearly made for this ship model, but may not be original to it considering the different finish color.
A round pewter button with "TPORTER" stamped across the middle. This button would have been sewn onto an enslaved person's shirt to identify him or her as belonging to Thomas Porter II. On the reverse side of the button there are fine concentric circle impressions within a pronounced rim as well as a stamp which is now illegible. There is also evidence of a parting line for a two-part mold on the reverse of the button. The button has considerable wear with pitting on both sides.
A round pewter button with "TPORTER" stamped across the middle. This button would have been sewn onto an enslaved person's shirt to identify him or her as belonging to Thomas Porter II. On the reverse side of the button there is a pronounced concavity which may have occurred after fabrication. The button has considerable wear with pitting on both sides.
A round copper-alloy button with the initials "T*P" on the front. This button would have been sewn onto an enslaved person's shirt to identify him or her as belonging to Thomas Porter II. There is an inscription on the reverse of the button in two concentric circles that reads, "FINE ORANGE STANDARD GILT." There is a considerable amount of verdigris on both sides of the button.
A round copper-alloy button with the initials "T*P" on the front. This button would have been sewn onto an enslaved person's shirt to identify him or her as belonging to Thomas Porter. There is an inscription on the reverse of the button in two concentric circles that reads, "FINE ORANGE STANDARD GILT."
This letter was written from Charleston, South Carolina, on March 5, 1800, by David Selden to his parents in Chatham, Connecticut. Selden lists several cities he has recently traveled to including New York and Philadelphia, with future destinations including Georgetown and Georgia. After describing the weather and spring blossoms of Charleston, Selden writes, "I cannot but reflect on the awfull sight to be seen at a place called Gadsdens wharf of about four thousand poor africans naked/in a manner/ and lousy[.] The most distressing sight I ever beheld offered for sale every day at Auction to him who will give the most." The letter is posted specifically to his father Reverend David Selden of Chatham, Connecticut, but the salutation reads "Dear parents".
This cowrie shell basket was created by artisans in Mossuril, Mozambique, in 2015 to hold soil from the region, which was then deposited at the site of the São José shipwreck. After a solemn ceremony on May 30, 2015, the village and tribal elder in Mossuril, Evano Nhogache, entrusted this basket to Lonnie Bunch, instructing him to place the enclosed soil as close to the wreck site as possible to symbolically reconnect those Mozambicans who were lost with their homeland. He then asked that the basket become part of the collections of the NMAAHC. On June 2, 2015, at a second memorial in Clifton, the soil was poured into the ocean near the wreck site. The slave ship São José Paquete Africa sank on December 3, 1794 off the coast of South Africa. It had left Mozambique 24 days prior bound for Maranhão, Brazil.
A basket created by artisans in Mossuril, Mozambique for ceremonial transport of soil from Mozambique to the site of the São José shipwreck in Cape Town, South Africa. The round basket is in two parts, a base and lid, and is made from worked plant material. Cowrie shells placed closely together adorn and cover the outside of both the top and bottom of basket.
A round pewter button with "D BAILLIE / G•GROVE" stamped on the front. This button would have been sewn onto an enslaved person's shirt to identify him or her as belonging to David Baillie of Golden Grove Plantation, British Guyana. The button has considerable wear with pitting on both sides.
ARTIST STATEMENT: In the image Blueprint, I juxtapose the image of a housing project on 135th Street and Broadway in Harlem, with the slave ship icon that shows the way African [sic] were stowed in the holds of the ships on the journey from the African continent to the Americas and the Caribbean. The title Blueprint suggests that both of these acts were premeditated. One was to efficiently expedite the shipment of as many bodies that could physically fit into the holds of the ships. The other was to warehouse the descendants of those Africans post-Emancipation in as efficient a manner as possible. The color blue also references the blues, the uniquely American musical idiom created by enslaved African [sic] in response to their social and political position within American society. -- Terry Boddie, 2017
Photographic print by Terry Boddie. The blue print shows two (2) images referencing housing issues among Africans and African Americans. The lower image is a detail view of the conditions for enslaved Africans during the Middle Passage. The illustration of a ship’s cargo hold shows each figure lying confined in rows. The upper half shows a multi-story housing project at 135th Street and Broadway in Harlem. The white paper is visible around the border with some staining on the edges. The work is signed on the bottom. The print is adhered to a Fome-Cor board.