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The Conversation: International African American Museum in Charleston, S.C., pays new respect to the enslaved Africans who landed on its docks

Before Congress ended the transatlantic slave trade in 1808, the Port of Charleston was the nation’s epicenter of human trafficking.

Almost half of the estimated 400,000 African people imported into what became the United States were brought to that Southern city, and a substantial number took their first steps on American soil at Gadsden’s Wharf on the Cooper River.

That location of once utter degradation is now the hallowed site of the International African American Museum. Pronounced “I Am” and opened in June 2023, the US$120 million project financed by state and local funds and private donations was 25 years in the making and is a memorial to not only those enslaved but also those whose lives as free Black Americans affected U.S. history and society through their fight for full citizenship rights.

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