In Charleston, the land bears witness. But the water is where the story begins.
It was on the waves of the Atlantic, beginning in the 16th century, that hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans—packed tightly into the cargo holds of European slave ships—were transported from West Africa to the Americas. If they survived the treacherous crossing known as the Middle Passage, most would arrive at Sullivan’s Island, a two-and-a-half-mile-long barrier island separating the city of Charleston from the Atlantic Ocean. After a period of quarantine, they would be transferred to mainland Charleston, to a dock known as Gadsden’s Wharf, and sold to the highest bidder.