photograph of international partners in Slave Wrecks Project visiting Christiansted
Slave Wrecks Project partners from the National Park Service Southeast Archeological Center, Submerged Resources Center, Washington D.C., Christiansted National Historic Site, Senegal, Mozambique, and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture visit Christiansted in 2017.

NPS photo

Slave Wrecks Project

Christiansted National Historic Site is a proud partner in the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP), an international network of researchers and institutions that combines collaborative maritime exploration and investigation with training, heritage protection, exhibits, and education to build and share new knowledge about the history of the global slave trade. SWP partners work in museums and in archives, on coastlines, and in the sea in a dynamic approach to public history that intersects with the latest in science, archaeology, anthropology, and historical research. SWP is building a global network with local and regional roots and works in a growing list of locations from Mozambique to South Africa to St. Croix, Senegal, Brazil, and Cuba.

Since 2010, the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) has fostered public and scholarly understanding of the role of the African slave trade in shaping global history by using maritime archeology as the vehicle for examining enslavement and its far-reaching global impacts. The archeological investigation of slaver shipwrecks and related terrestrial sites, such as markets in which the enslaved were sold, places where they lived and worked, maroon sites and encampments, and Free Black communities, promises to provide a new perspective to bear on our understanding of the Trans-Atlantic and Indian Ocean trades in enslaved people and on the central role that this process played in constituting the modern world.

Photo of two archeologists excavating an archeological unit at Christiansted
Dr. Ibrahima Thiaw (Senegal) and NPS archeologist Eric Bezemek excavate an archeological unit at Christiansted National Historic Site, 2017.

NPS photo

In 2015, the National Park Service launched the first SWP research efforts in US territorial waters and the Western Hemisphere – a survey, inventory, and assessment of submerged resources at Buck Island National Monument, to look for two slave ships that wrecked off the island’s reefs, the Mary and the General Abercrombie. Archeologists from the NPS’ Submerged Resources Center (SRC) and the Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC), in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and George Washington University, are locating and documenting archeological sites both above and underwater associated with the historic trade of enslaved Africans.

Beginning in the summer of 2016, archeologists from SEAC began a community archeology program at Christiansted National Historic Site as part of a collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands and other community partners, in a multi-year effort that combines research and archaeology on land sites, with public engagement activities such as educational and training programs, museum exhibits, professional internships, and archival and genealogical research. Excavations focused on the grounds of the Danish West India and Guinea Company Warehouse, at the locations of the residences and activity areas associated with enslaved Africans (Royal Slaves) who lived and worked in the Danish governmental complex at Fort Christiansvaern.

We look forward to continuing this globally significant research and educational program with all of our partners. And thank you to all of our local community partners for helping make this project a success!


Last updated: April 16, 2018

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