Slave ship exhibit opens in Providence

May 9, 2013

Slave ship exhibit opens in Providence  

PLACES & FACESMAY 8, 2013 BY: BETSY CAZDEN

On Thursday, May 9, Brown University'sCenter for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ) is opening a new exhibit entitled “Ships of Bondage and the Fight for Freedom,” at the John Nicholas Brown Center's Carriage House Gallery on Benefit Street, Providence.

The slave ship was, in the words of historian Ira Berlin, “a machine that manufactured modernity,” a technology that made possible the plantations throughout the Americas and created wealth in England, France, Spain, and American ports such as Newport. Professor Marcus Rediker, who spoke recently at the CSSJ about his new book The Amistad Rebellion, calls the slave ship “a strange and potent combination of war machine, mobile prison, and factory,” which over the course of the transatlantic voyage “produced” slaves fit for plantation work.

The new exhibit focuses on three such ships. The Sally, owned by the four Brown brothers and captained by Esek Hopkins, left Providence for the coast of Africa in 1765. Its voyage was marked by illness that decimated its human “cargo” and an insurrection of those who remained. Detailed documents from the voyage are available on the Brown University website. The other two ships, the Meermin and the more famous Amistad, also had insurrections that demonstrate newly-enslaved Africans' determination to resist captivity and return to their homelands.

The opening reception on Thursday, May 9, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm is free and open to the public. The exhibit will run until June 30, 2013. The Carriage House Gallery, part of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, is open on weekdays, 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, with no admission charge.