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Broad effects of slavery explored at Frazier

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Owners dehumanized slaves

By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
catrina.s.francis2.civ@mail.mil
“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally,” said Abraham Lincoln in a speech March 17, 1865.
Last month the Frazier History Museum’s exhibit “Spirits of the Passage” opened and it tells the story of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the U.S. The exhibit also opened to honor the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
This humbling exhibition explores the circumstances of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, gleaning facts and artifacts from the archaeological excavation of a sunken slave ship, according to the Frazier History Museum.
Krista Snider, the museum’s chief outreach officer, said the exhibit is near and dear to the museum director’s heart.
“I think the reason for this exhibit is (it’s) a dark chapter of our collective history that’s never been delved into,” explained Snider. “Stories have been told (that) the slave trade and slavery in this country has not been ugly and dark.
Snider pointed out that having the exhibit is important so the country doesn’t repeat the atrocities of slavery.
“(The exhibit) is broad reaching and (it tells) the effect of the slave trade and how we are still recovering,” she said. “It wasn’t without a lot of ugly stuff along the way. (We) have a much more human perspective and understanding of how we are still recovering from this.”
Snider noted that the slave trade was driven by economic factors – money – and it’s heartbreaking that some slaves were sold for luxury items such as sugar, things people wanted not what they needed, said Snider.
“(Slaves were) sold for these beads and for this pewter bottle were literally traded for people,” explained Snider.
Snider said another reason for the exhibit is to show the humanity of people because during slavery they were dehumanized.
“They convinced slaves they weren’t human,” she said, “it’s about humanity. They were enslaved people; they were captives (and) they were people who with this exhibition we present a few sides of the topic.
“One of the themes is the underdevelopment of the African continent, Europe underdeveloped Africa.”
Although slavery was abolished with the passage of the 13th Amend-ment, Snider said many don’t understand the affects of slavery. She said the museum completed a PSA with former Kentucky Sen. Georgia Davis-Powers, the first African-American in the Kentucky Senate. Snider said the senator had a few stories, one which was about her aunt—a former slave. Her aunt inherited a farm from the white slave owner and her aunt had to take the case before the courts to retain the land.
“She got to keep that land,” Snider said. “It’s scary. It really hasn’t been that long. We have some ways to go, but we are a lot better off (and we are) making progress.”
Since the exhibit opened Snider said the word she often hears from patrons is sad, and there are a lot of tears. But, the exhibit ends on an inspirational note, said Snider.
“The comments (left by visitors) at the end (say) ‘we are survivors,’” she said. “One of my favorite comments (said), ‘I weep for us all, then I hope. The simplicity of that is profound.”
Snider said the biggest takeaway and she would like people to talk about Africa. Many she said, don’t know it’s a continent, they believe it’s a country.
“Africa is diverse with sophisticated cultures,” she said. “One of the messages we carry is the human spirit can’t be enslaved. There is a tenacity and strength that’s been carried forward (by people) who are descendents of these enslaved people. That’s something to be proud of.”

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The TransAtlantic Slave Trade is the largest forced migration in the history of the world. From 1501 to 1867, an estimated 12.5 million people were shipped out as slaves. Most were prisoners of war—statesmen, soldiers, artists, farmers and many other skilled people. Nations who lost their people lost their social order and their natural cultural progress. The depopulation of West Africa set back regional development for generations.