RICHMOND, VA.- On view through May 18, 2007, the University of Richmond Museums presents the exhibition, A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie. Discovered by divers in 1972 and fully excavated in 1983, the English merchant slave ship Henrietta Marie is believed to be the worlds largest source of tangible objects from the early years of the slave trade. Before sinking in 1700, in an area thirty-five miles west of Key West, Florida, the ship carried 190 captive Africans to be sold as slaves in Jamaica. The exhibition presents the history of the Henrietta Marie and examines the early years of the transatlantic slave trade.
In 1699, the Henrietta Marie sailed from London to New Calabar, West Africa, with a cargo of pewter, beads, and other English goods, which were to be exchanged for ivory and enslaved Africans. The next stop was Jamaica, where the captain sold the cargo of Africans to plantation owners. On the journey home, a storm sank the ship in the Straits of Florida in July 1700, not to be discovered until 1972 by American diver, Melvin A. Fisher and later excavated.
The significance of the Henrietta Marie increased after its initial excavation in 1983. Among the artifacts uncovered were the largest collection of slave shackles and of English-made pewter-ware from the reign of William III (Britain, 1689-1702) ever found in one place. Also on display, will be Venetian glass trade beads, stock iron trade bars, ivory "elephants teeth," basins, spoons, bottles, and the ships bell inscribed Henrietta Marie 1699. The exhibition uses numerous artifacts, interactive displays and the ships records as touchstones for entering the daily lives of the Africans on board the ship as they made the journey to the New World as slaves; the seamen who manned the ship and managed its human cargo; and the traders who ran this notorious enterprise and integrated it into the economy of England.
A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie is presented in conjunction with the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in 1607. The exhibition presentation at the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, University of Richmond Museums, is made possible with the generous funding of Guy A. Ross, R73, University of Richmond trustee, and the John D. Evans Foundation. The exhibition and its national tour have been organized by the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, Key West, Florida. The national tour has been sponsored by the General Motors Company. An exhibition catalogue, published by the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, is available at the University Museums.