35. Georgetown Waterfront, Base of Wisconsin Avenue at Potomac Street

Photo by Andrena Crockett

The UNESCO Slave Route project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage

Launched in 1994, the international and inter-regional project ‘The Slave Route: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage’ addresses the history of the slave trade and slavery through the prism of intercultural dialogue, a culture of peace and reconciliation. It thereby endeavours to improve the understanding and transmission of this human tragedy by making better known its deep-seated causes, its consequences for societies today and the cultural interactions born of this history. The project is structured around five key fields of activity: scientific research, development of educational materials, preservation of written archives and oral traditions, promotion of living cultures and contributions by the African diaspora and, lastly, preservation of sites of memory.

The promotion of the memorial heritage related to the slave trade and slavery plays a decisive role not only in educating the general public, and young people in particular, but also in facilitating national reconciliation and social cohesion processes in societies.

It is in this perspective that ‘The Slave Route project has created a label to encourage the preservation of sites of memories and the establishment of itineraries that can tell this story and ensure that this  heritage receives due attention at the national, regional and international levels.

This site fulfills the quality criteria set by the UNESCO Slave Route Project in conjunction with the International Network of Managers of Sites and Itineraries of Memory.

The Keyes – Port of Washington DC

The Port of Georgetown was a place of first arrival for captive Africans after the Middle Passage. It is at this port and along the coasts that captive African children, women and men were delivered with the intention of enslavement. They were transported to forced labor camps or settings in which their skills, knowledge and physical labor were exploited by a system of violence and terror. Covering a period beginning in 1526 until 1860, a wide variety of financial investors, merchants, pirates, smugglers, farmers, and governments participated in sponsoring their journey from Africa. In 1732 the ships Liverpool Merchant​ (carrying 187 Africans) and ​William & Betty ​(carrying 164 Africans) came from Gambia, but disembarked only 65 and 89 Africans, respectively at the Port of Georgetown. In 1736 the ​George​ and ​Prince William​ docked. The ​George​ carried 271 which embarked from an unknown country in Africa. All disembarked at Port of Georgetown. The ​Prince William​ sailed from Gambia with 194 and only 52 disembarked. The ​George​ returned in 1740 from Calabar and all 217 carried disembarked. The ​Sarah​ sailed from St. Louis in 1760 with 98 human beings destined for enslavement.  Many went to Virginia and 7 came to the Port of Georgetown.  And in 1761 the ​Upton​ transported 168 Africans from Gambia with 107 bound for the Port of Washington. There were 31 confirmed deaths and 107 disembarked. The discrepancies in numbers might be accounted for by the ship sailing to other ports prior to sailing to Port of Georgetown where they left their human cargo, the numbers cannot be verified, or unsubstantiated deaths.

(Source: The Middle Passage Project citing, ​Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, ​David Eltis, Emory University)