© 2021 KALW
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Museum presents the first-person accounts of slaves


This is the week of Juneteenth – the holiday commemorating the day all black slaves in America were officially freed. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers captured Galveston, Texas. They brought news that the war had ended to slaves in Galveston who had not heard.

Those last slaves were freed more than 150 years ago. But slavery scarred American history. Its horrors are exposed in raw form at an exhibit currently showing at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.  

The audio installation “Slave Narratives” presents the true first person accounts of slaves who ended up all over the world -- including Cuba, Nigeria, and the United States. KALW’sHana Baba visited the Museum and met up with community associate Emily Storer. The exhibit room is purposefully pitch dark, meant to replicate the dungeons slaves were kept in before being shipped off from Africa.

There’s nothing on the walls or in the room, just a bench to sit on, as slave testimonials boom from the speakers above. One of the first-person accounts was by Mary Prince, a Bermuda-born slave, as she recalls the day she was sold off from her family at the age of twelve.

MARY PRINCE: We followed my mother to the marketplace where she placed us in a row against a large house with our backs to the wall and our arms folded across our breasts. I, being the eldest, stood first. Hannah next to me, then Dinah. And our mother stood by crying over us.. My heart throbbed with grief and terror so violently that I pressed my hands quite tightly across my breasts, but I could not keep it still. And it continued to leap as if it were ready to burst out of my body. But  who cared for that? Did one of the many white bystanders who were looking at us so carelessly think of the pain that wrung our hearts? No. No!

Click the player above to hear the narratives.

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.