There are an estimated 403,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). The US attracts migrants and refugees who are particularly at risk of vulnerability to human trafficking. Trafficking victims often responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the US migrate willingly and are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in industries such as forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Archun was trafficked from Thailand to the US and forced to work in the farming industry to pay of his debts.
The Rokeby Museum presents a 'nationally significant Underground Railroad story tucked inside a quintessential Vermont experience.' The museum was established in 1961, and covers 100 acres, with ten historic buildings. Originally a prosperous merino wool farm, Rokeby was owned by the Robinson family during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The family were abolitionists, and provided a safe haven for fugitive slaves from the American South.
The Underground Railroad Education Centre which marks the entrance to the museum houses the sites permanent museum exhibitions. 'Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont' tells the stories of Jesse and Simon; two fugitive slaves who found shelter at Rokeby during the 1830s. Using a range of historic documents and artefacts the exhibition traces their journey from slavery to freedom. It also introduces the Robinson family and their support of the American abolition movement. The use of audio and film, recreating some of the voices of the exhibition's main characters, brings the history to life for visitors.
The rest of the museum is made up of historic buildings, including the main farmhouse, that have been restored and refurnished in order to provide visitors with a glimpse as to what life would have been like on the farm when Jesse and Simon were there. It is thought that both would have spent a significant length of time working on the farm before moving on towards Canada.
The San Diego Museum of Man is an anthropological museum that originated from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition that celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. Over the last century, the museum has expanded and developed in its original buildings at San Diego's Balboa Park. It took its present name in 1978. The museum's mission is to inspire human connections by exploring human experiences, around the world and through the ages.
The museum features twelve permanent exhibitions that explore a range of themes linking to human development and cultures. These include 'Ancient Egypt', 'Living with Animals' which explores the human practice of keeping pets, and 'PostSecret' which examines the concept of secrecy throughout societies.
Another permanent exhibition, 'Race: Are we so different?' explores the distinctions of race and the origins of racism in America. A timeline maps instances of racism throughout the nation, and includes focusses on Native American communities, as well as enslaved Africans, Civil Rights and the Jim Crow era. Text interpretation also includes biological facts about race and genetics to address long held historic views about hierarchies of race.
Initially a temporary exhibition, it was so successful with visitors the museum decided to house it permanently. 'Race: Are we so different?' was developed in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association and the Science Museum of Minnesota. The exhibition features heavily in the museum's school programmes in providing a platform to promote discussion of feeling, thinking, acting, and reflecting on race and identity, and to raise awareness and build positive relationships across communities in America today.
The Museum of Modern Day Slavery opened in 2014. It is managed by Elijah Rising, a prayer gathering that aims to end sex trafficking through prayer, awareness, intervention, and restoration. The museum is a big part of that mission and is housed in a former brothel that Elijah Rising negotiated the closure of in 2012. It is the only museum in the USA dedicated solely to interpreting and raising awareness for slavery in the present day.
The location of the museum provides visitors with a rare opportunity to see inside a brothel. Throughout, there is text interpretation that provides information about sex trafficking in Houston. This is supported by a small collection of artefacts that have been collected by the museum's staff and volunteers when conducting field research with victims of trafficking in the city. The museum also draws attention to the victories of abolitionists in the past through text panels to inspire visitors to take action to end slavery in the present.
The Harriet Tubman Museum is a small museum located in Cambridge, Maryland, a few miles from where Harriet Tubman was born. The museum originated as a community organization which was planning a single three-day event honouring Harriet Tubman in 1983. Over the years, the Harriet Tubman Organisation has adjusted its goals; today its mission 'is to develop programs and services for children and families and to preserve the history and memory of Harriet Tubman by offering the general public an interpretive history of her achievements.'
The museum's permanent exhibition is a combination of interpretive text and artefacts, many recovered from nearby plantations. The artefacts on display represent the objects that the enslaved would have used in their daily lives, as well as more brutal symbols of slavery like shackles. The museum, which accepts admission donations, is usually open Tuesday - Saturday. Through the museum, visitors can also organise trips to the actual property where Tubman was born and worked. The museum hosts school groups as well as a range of special events throughout the year.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture was created out of the passion and activism of businessman Reginald F. Lewis. Lewis rose from humble beginnings to earn a place at Harvard Law School, establish the first African American law firm on Wall Street and become the wealthiest African American in the US. In 1993, he died suddenly after a short illness. During his illness, he made known his desire to create a museum of African American culture and after his death, the non-profit foundation started in his memory accomplished that.
The museum is located in downtown Baltimore close to one of the several locations of former slave pens. The collection 'explores the African American experience and tells the universal story of the struggle for liberty, equality and self-determination.' The main collection is housed on the third floor and is divided into three sections: Building Maryland, Building America; The Strength of the Mind; Things Hold Lines Connect. Building Maryland, Building America has a heavy focus on slavery, explaining the roles of the enslaved in urban and rural environments. Unlike the cotton plantations of the Deep South, Maryland slavery ranged widely: tobacco plantations, shipyards, oyster shucking and iron furnaces to name a few.
Throughout the exhibitions, the interpretive text is supplemented with interactive displays, video and audio presentations and artwork. The overreaching message of the museum is that African Americans have contributed to the US since their initial forced arrival and have worked tirelessly to better their plight; through emancipation, the right to vote, the Civil Rights Movement and into the more recent social movements. The museum does not shy away from presenting the brutal side of slavery and Jim Crow, with slave collars, shackles, reward notices and video in connection to lynching are sensitively displayed.
The ground floor of the museum hosts temporary exhibitions and there is dedicated education space for the many school trips they host during the year. The museum also provides learning resources to assist with the local curriculum, offering lesson plans and outreach sessions in local schools. Throughout the year, the museum hosts a diverse range of events. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday with a small admission fee.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park was established in 2003, the 100th anniversary of Tubman's death, in rural Dorchester County. In 2017 the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Centre was officially opened. The visitor centre was a collaborative project between the US National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service. The building houses exhibition space, a research library and gift shop. Also on location is a public pavilion and legacy garden.
The design of the site was built around the importance of northward movement in the slave's quest for freedom. The legacy garden stretches out north between the buildings, offering an expansive and hopeful view. The view south is more enclosed and fragmented, reflecting the intolerable existence for those enslaved. The visitor centre houses an exhibition that chronicles the life and accomplishments of Tubman; her birth into slavery, escaping and subsequently returning to free friends and family, her work as a Union spy and her activism after the Civil War. The story is told through a combination of interpretive text, videos, murals, dioramas and her own powerful words.
The park and visitor centre are open seven days a week and are free to the public. The visitor centre also provides further information on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Driving Tour, which has 36 stops throughout the Eastern Shore of Maryland linked to Tubman's life.
The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum occupies the upper floor of the former Presbyterian Church of Smithfield, built in 1820. In 1835 it was the site of the first complete meeting of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society, and it opened as a museum to represent the history of the abolition movement in 2004. The lower floor houses the Smithfield Community Centre. In 1994, the building was added to the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. In 2004, it was designated as a site on the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail.
The Hall of Fame and Museum honours abolitionists and their achievements, periodically inducting new members. It also aims to educate about the legacy of the movement and to inspire its visitors to engage in the 'new struggle' to end racism. The museum features an introductory film that provides background context to the abolition movement, regarding the transatlantic slave trade. Written text panels, archival materials and art are used to add further depth to the narrative of the American abolition movement.
The museum also runs a programme of visitor events, and education activities.
The Museum of African American History operates across two sites, one in Boston and one in Nantucket. It has preserved four historic buildings, and operates two heritage trails. All of this combined makes it the largest African American Museum in New England. The museum's mission is to preserve, conserve and promote accurate interpretations of African American contributions to New England.
The African Meeting House and the Abiel Smith school, both built during the 1800s form the centre of the museum, showcasing the strength of community organisation and black craftsmanship through the centuries. Both buildings now contain exhibitions, a library and museum stores that provide interpretation to New England's free black communities prior to the Civil War. In addition, the interpretation also discusses the roles of white abolitionists in securing the legal end of slavery. The sites also house temporary exhibitions and run a range of education sessions for groups.
The National Civil Rights Museum is housed in the Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on 4 April, 1968. It was founded in 1991 with the mission of sharing and raising awareness about the lessons and legacies from the Civil Rights Movement. The museum makes use of historic collections and a range of interactive exhibits, including film and audio, to tell these stories. Recently renovated in 2013-14, the museum is one of the top rated by the American Alliance of Museums and was a founding member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
The museum has five permanent exhibitions that include 260 artefacts, 40 film installations, oral histories and interactive media to guide visitors through five centuries of history. The exhibitions explore Civil Rights protest techniques- including sit ins, bus boycotts and freedom rides- as well as the Black Power movement and the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr. and its aftermath on the Civil Rights movement.
The first exhibition that visitors enter explores the longer 'Culture of Resistance' that was present in the United States prior to the Civil Rights movement, as seen through resistance to the system of slavery that dominated the country for centuries. Focussing on the period 1619-1869, the exhibition includes large scale interactive maps that emphasise the global impact of the transatlantic slave trade. There are films and art installations in the form of sculptures that show the terrible conditions inflicted on the enslaved people. Illuminated channels provide statistics and further information, including the number of people captured, goods cultivated and wealth created.
The museum also has facilities for temporary exhibitions, both on the site and online, and runs an immersive education programme for both children and adults.
The Odell S. Williams Now and Then African-American Museum was established by Sadie Roberts-Joseph in 2001. The museum is named for Odell S. Williams, a well-loved educator in the Baton Rouge area. It was founded as Joseph identified a need in the local community for a cultural space that celebrated African American history.
The museum has a range of vibrant exhibits, showcasing the contributions of local African Americans through history, across a range of different fields. These include, music, cuisine, education, politics and business. Visitors can step onboard an authentic bus from 1953 and explore Baton Rouge's role in the civil rights movement.
The museum's display on agriculture looks at the early plantation economy of the area, and the key crops that were grown then. It also explores the experience of the enslaved Africans that who used as labour on those plantations.
It has a broad events programme, and runs the area's annual Juneteenth event.
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum opened in 1983. It was set up by Drs. Elmer and Joanne Martin as a cultural and educational institution that focusses solely on the study and preservation of African American history. It is a unique organisation as it represents the histories it interprets through the use of life size wax figures, presented in historical settings. The museum has several objectives, including to increase interest in African American history, to use inspiring examples from history to motivate young people to achieve, and to improve race relations by dispelling myths of racial inequalities. The museum attracts around 300,000 visitors annually.
The museum features thirty-five installations of 'great blacks' in a range of scenarios. These cover a large temporal and geographic span, beginning with representations of key figures in pre-slavery Africa, through to dioramas of the space race and modern science. The key focus is on black achievement through all sectors of society, including politics, the military, sport and business.
Many of these installations link to the history of slavery in the United States. They examine the Middle Passage and captivity, plantation life and resistance with graphic displays of the instruments of brutality utilised in the system of enslavement. Others depict key characters in African American journeys to freedom including Henry 'Box' Brown and W.E.B. Dubois. The abolition movement is incorporated into the installations with the characters of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. The Underground Railroad is also depicted in a display with Harriet Tubman, amongst others. Many of these dioramas also incorporate models of children.
The displays continue to chart the twentieth century, examining the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, and the Jim Crow Laws. Some of these dioramas illustrate the abhorrent nature of the racial violence that dominated the United States, such as lynching, in graphic detail.
The River Road African American Museum (RRAAM) was originally housed at Tezcuco Plantation, and opened in 1994. Due to a fire, it was relocated to its present site, a restored Caribbean-style cottage from the 1890s, in 2003. Before the museum opened, there was nowhere that charted the narrative of African American experience in the rural counties along the Mississippi. It developed its collections through donations; of buildings, objects, family documents, photographs, maps and pieces of art. The RRAAM opened with the aim of educating its visitors about the lives of Africans Americans who lived and worked on the sugar and rice plantations in the region. It has since been recognised as an international repository for African American culture in Louisiana. It hosts a varied public programme alongside its permanent displays, including touring exhibitions, concerts, lectures and school workshops.
The museum's website outlines its focus as 'more than just a slavery museum'; its key themes throughout the permanent exhibits are freedom, resilience and reconciliation. Five of the museum's displays focus on the contribution of African influence in key areas of Louisiana culture, including jazz, cuisine, medicine, art and inventions.
One key exhibit features a collection of slave inventories from local plantations- the museum lists the names of over 5,000 enslaved people. 'Free People of Colour' follows on from this as an exhibit which showcases the hundreds of people who obtained their freedom in Ascension. Outside, the RRAAM has built a 'Freedom Garden' which reveals the history of Louisiana's involvement in the Underground Railroad using a range of plants that would have been cultivated by the enslaved, both in Africa and on the plantations.
Open since April 2018, the Legacy Museum is built on the site of a former warehouse where enslaved Africans were imprisoned. The site is located between an historic slave market and the main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were transported through at the height of the domestic slave trade. Today it is a short walk from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in the heart of downtown Montgomery, Alabama. The museum’s mission is to acknowledge and present the legacies of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation in the United States. The Legacy Museum is used to educate people about long-standing racial inequality in America and prompt them to search for truth and reconciliation with the aim of developing real solutions to contemporary problems. Its managing organisation, the Equal Justice Initiative, was founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson and was initially set up to help the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. In continuing this spirit of active community engagement, the museum also runs concerts and academic summits, and actively participates in human rights campaigning in Alabama.
The museum exhibition begins by showing replica constructions of slave pens, accompanied by unique audio and visual effects, attempting to allow visitors to empathise with an imprisoned slave waiting to be sold at the nearby auction block. There are also first-person accounts from enslaved people, portrayed on film by actors. Alongside these audio-visual experiences there are also more traditional exhibits that examine America’s history of racial injustice and its legacy, drawing connections across generations of Americans impacted by racial difference. These exhibits feature artefacts and archival materials. The museum also includes pieces of contemporary art, commissioned with creative partners to depict contemporary responses to the ongoing legacies of slavery and racial inequalities.
Formerly the Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site was constructed in 1875 and opened as the Banneker-Douglass Museum (BDM) in 1984. It was named after Benjamin Banneker – a free-born African American scientist and mathematician. He protested strongly against slavery, and compared the fight of the colonists to that of the enslaved people in America when writing to Thomas Jefferson in 1791. The other namesake was Frederick Douglass, a political activist, writer, and famous abolitionist who documented his experiences both escaping from and fighting against slavery. The museum is dedicated to preserving Maryland’s African American Heritage. It contains a range of both permanent and temporary exhibitions. In light of this legacy, the BDM focuses on a community-based approach to building collections and exhibitions and in providing tours, public programs, and other services. The museum's permanent exhibition is a celebration of African Americans in Maryland; providing an overview of African American history in Maryland from 1633 to the present day. Specifically the exhibition looks at Maryland’s first African American settler, Mathias De Sousa. It includes Benjamin Banneker’s almanacs, used as an anti-slavery protest to Thomas Jefferson, as well as a recording of Frederick Douglass’s speeches against racism and slavery. The museum presently partners with Anne Arundel County Public Library, offering programs and workshops at AACPL branches. It also offers guided tours of both the permanent and temporary exhibition.
The African-American Panoramic Experience (APEX) Museum aims to accurately interpret and present history from an African-American perspective in order to help all visitors understand and appreciate the contributions of African-Americans to America and the wider world. It was founded in 1978, and in 2018 curated a programme of events to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
The museum contains a range of exhibitions. These begin with a chronological display exploring the history of Africa. Another examines the experience of enslaved Africans in Georgia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Other displays bring the narrative up to date, looking at women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and the history of the local district Sweet Auburn, which has become a hub for African-Americans in Georgia. The museum has many artefacts including photographs, art, and traditional African material culture.
The Freedom House Museum was once part of the headquarters for the largest domestic slave trading firm in the United States, Franklin and Armfield. Enslaved Africans were brought from the Chesapeake Bay area and forced to the slave markets in Natchez, Mississippi and New Orleans either by foot or ship. The building has a long history. In 1828, it was leased by Isaac Franklin and John Armfield and used as a "Negro Jail" or slave pen for slaves being shipped from Northern Virginia to Louisiana. During the American Civil War the museum and its surrounding sites were used firstly as a military prison for deserters, then as the L'Ouverture Hospital for black soldiers, and finally as the barrack for contraband-slaves who fled the confederate states and sought refuge with Union troops.
The building is currently owned by the Northern Virginia Urban League but the museum is managed by the office of Historic Alexandria. It operates as a reminder to the people of Alexandria of the city's role in historic slavery.
In the basement of the building there is a powerful exhibition which depicts the harsh reality of the domestic slave trade and Alexandria's role in it, through the use of first person narratives from enslaved men and women. These are complemented with a range of contextual text panels, artefacts, images and maps.
Previously called the Robert Robinson Library, the museum was opened as the Alexandria Black History Research Centre in 1983. In 1987, the Alexandria City Council placed the operation of the museum under the office of Historic Alexandria, providing a large increase in funding which allowed for the building to be completed in 1989. Further expansion followed in 1995, when the Watson Reading Room, with books, documents, and periodicals on African American culture, was added. The museum's mission is to inform and enrich the lives of Alexandria’s residents and visitors about the diversity of the African American experience in Alexandria, Virginia. The museum also operates the Alexandria African American Heritage Park, a nine-acre park, which contains a one-acre nineteenth-century African-American cemetery that was buried under a city landfill in the 1960s.
The museum has several exhibitions, displaying collections of African objects, including wood carvings from the west coast of Africa, as well as collections from African American churches, photographs, and documents. The Museum also runs events related to African cultural and heritage such as guest lectures. The museum curates a range of temporary exhibition covering a variety of topics. For example, the Sharon J Frazier and Linwood M. Smith Dollhouse collection has featured in one such exhibition with miniatures of buildings and rooms capturing the forgotten businesses and people who were important to Alexandria’s development in the last century. A particular emphasis was also placed on African American culture and important institutions such as family, church, and school.
The memorial was founded after human remains were discovered underground by city workmen who were attempting to build some government offices in the 1990s. The remains belonged to enslaved Africans who were building New Amsterdam (present day New York). The African Burial Ground National Monument honours these Africans’ memory, having reburied them in a more respectful manner. It is the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for both free and enslaved Africans. A 'sacred space in Manhattan', the mission of the memorial is to acknowledge New York's involvement with slavery and the slave trade to provide a respectful and symbolic space for the reinternment of the African remains found at the site.
The facilities at the centre include a range of exhibits, a twenty-minute film and a book/gift shop. In addition, the memorial also offers on-site presentations in the visitor centre consisting of an hour long programme. The memorial is managed by the National Park Service and the U.S Department of the Interior.
The process of memorialization and the research conducted about the enslaved African skeletal remains was negotiated extensively between the General Services Administration, the African American descendant community, historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists. Civic engagement led to the ancestral remains reinternment within the original site of discovery. An external memorial, an interpretive centre, and research library were constructed to further commemorate the financial and physical contributions of enslaved Africans to colonial New York, and to honour their memory. The exhibits examine the history of the initial discovery, the research conducted to identify the remains, the documentation process and associated artefacts.
The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum opened in 1997 on the Burkle Estate- an historic house in Memphis. Originally built by a German immigrant, Joseph Burkle, the building is thought to have been part of the Underground Railroad, offering safe harbour to the enslaved on their escape route through the USA to Canada. Made up of period, nineteenth-century room settings, the museum documents the history of the Underground Railroad and the possible role of the house in that network. It also features displays about the system of transatlantic slavery, slave auctions and the everyday life of slaves in the wider Memphis area using collections of artefacts and archival material, including many advertisements from slave auctions.
The site's main feature is its secret cellar and trap doors that are thought to have offered refuge to runaway slaves. Visitors are invited to step down into the cramped cellar and kneel on the brick floor to get a deeper understanding of the plight of the enslaved. The museum also conducts guided tours around the site and the local area, highlighting the broader history of slavery in the USA.