ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



On behalf of Historic Sotterley Plantation and the Middle

Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, community members

and leaders are invited to an ancestral remembrance ceremony

on Monday, November 12, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. at Sotterley Plantation.



Kunta Kinte Festival and Sotterley Plantation

Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project


We—Middle Passage Project—held a remembrance ceremony in Annapolis at the Kunta Kinte festival on September 29. It was another awesome experience! The following link will lead to a description of the event and some photos. Just click on Annapolis—Ann Cobb

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Annapolis—A Slave Port Acknowledged

29 September 2012

We are told that 245 years ago on September 29, 1767, the ship Lord Ligonier arrived at the port of Annapolis with a cargo of 96 persons from the Gambia. According to Alex Haley, Kunta Kinte was one of those 96 and so his family’s story in the Americas began. There were, however, between 1757 and 1772 more ships and more Africans whose arrival to Annapolis is documented.* On September 29, 2012 years later, many of us celebrated our ancestors, ourselves and our possibilities—especially in terms of young people. We did this all day with music, food, stories, plays, dance, sailing, conversation, prayer and libations.

Video tape and photographs can only partly convey the energy that took place, but the memory of it all is indelible. The morning began at the City Dock with a drum call, a short tribute to Alex Haley, a unity prayer and an “awakening” libation to the ancestors. Then the Annapolis Drum and Bugle Corps led a procession down to Susan B. Campbell Park on the waterfront. The city of Annapolis this year declared that into the future September 29th is an official day of celebration. From late morning through the afternoon we enjoyed the Kunta Kinte Story enacted by The Ebony World Network, and music ranging from step dancing to jazz, folk, blues, Afro-pop jazz and gospel. Participants shared good food, easy social exchange, and the presence of the Haley family. Ayanna Gregory, daughter of Dick Gregory, produced an inspired range of music from rhythm and blues to folk. After that we were wrapped in go-go by an all female dynamic band, Be’la Dona.

Attendees were charged with energy, rhythm.

Fittingly, the last group to perform was Nazu and Company, a traditional African dance and drumming group. With an afternoon full of diverse forms reflecting our creativity, this talented troupe reinforced our cultural roots. Whatever we have become over centuries, this troupe reminded us through dance and music of our shared African origins. The company beautifully and joyfully brought together the old and the young, male and female, who with movement and words reminded us of who we are—a people with a rich culture and heritage beginning long before our ancestors arrived in the Americas. Following this celebration, the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project and a Yoruba priest said a prayer for the ancestors, asking everyone to face the harbor.

As the sun set on a beautiful day, members of the Universal Sailing Club with a full harvest moon overhead, glided into the harbor. A drummer aboard the head vessel called to a drummer on the pier from the African troupe, and they responded back and forth.

The sailing club symbolizing the free descendant community and those at the Annapolis pier watching them came together in commemoration.

After the drumming, an elder and a priest led people in pouring libation and placing rose petals in the water as they called out the names of ancestors known and unknown, but now finally acknowledged.

The climax was unforgettable. As we stood on the pier having finished the libation, Nazu declared that he would lead us all in an ancestral dance in honor of those who had come before us. Our bodies became living prayers of remembrance as we moved and swayed together in harmony, reverence and peace. At the end of the festival I felt that I had participated in one of the most spiritually fulfilling events ever, and I was not alone in that sense of things. I thank the ancestors for opening this opportunity for the descendant community. With respect and gratitude, Ann Chinn, Executive Director Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project

*Recorded ships that arrived in Annapolis

8 July1757—Fox from Africa (90 people) 28 August 1759—Upton from Gambia (205 people) 15 July 1760—Jenny from Angola (333 people) 24 September 1760—Molly from Virginia (30 people) 7/29/1761—Alexander from Africa (110 people) 8/19/1762—The Favourite Polly from Gold Coast (80 people) 9/7/1763—Marquis of Rockingham from Windward/Gold Coast (188 people) 9/7/1763—Hannah from Africa (315 people) 8/9/1764—Africa from Senegal (81 people) 6/7/1766—Nancy Newport (28 people) 9/29/1767—Lord Ligonier from Gambia (96 people) 8/23/1768—Matty from Windward Coast (120 people) 6/7/1772—Friendship from St. Vincent (74 people)

Source: Middle Passage Project

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If the Atlantic were to dry up, it would reveal a scattered pathway of human bones, African bones marking the various routes of the Middle Passage.—John Henrik Clarke

The auctioneer’s Maryland is the place to witness the heartrending cruelties of slavery, not merely in the infliction of the lash on the back of the slave, but there you see the iron of slavery enter the soul of the slave. There you see husband torn from his wife, and the children torn from their parents.—Frederick Douglass

But if this part of our history could be told in such a way that those chains of the past, those shackles that physically bound us against our wills could, in the telling, become spiritual links that willingly bind us together now and into the future, then that painful Middle Passage could become ironically, a positive connecting line to all of us whether living inside or outside the continent of Africa….—Tom Feelings

You have discovered truths about your past. You have confronted the beast and in doing so have conquered it. From now on your backs will be a little straighter, you will hold your heads a little higher. You have attained a dignity that no one can ever diminish.—Desmond Tutu

There is no place where I can go, or where you can go, and think about, or summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of ones that made that journey. There is no small bench by the road, there is not even a tree scored and initialized that I can visit, or you can visit in Charleston, or Savannah, or New York, or Providence, or the Ohio River, or better still, on the banks of the Mississippi.—Toni Morrison

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Prayer of Unity

All praise to the Divine in us.

Praise to our ancestors and elders.

If a person does not know the past, then

the present and the future are not knowable.

Let the spirit of the ancestors help bring us

closer in unity and to our divinity.

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Ceremony at Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood, MD—November 12, 2012

Right now, we are hard at work on our final ceremony in MD, to be held on November 12, at the Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood, MD (Eastern Shore). This was a place we had never heard about. Actually, the plantation contacted us after the Baltimore ceremony to tell us they had written records that verified that this plantation for years was the arrival port for Africans immediately following the middle passage voyage because the owners were involved in the human trade as factors for the Royal African Company out of Ghana. Because of this history, they requested that we do a ceremony there. The following link may get you directly to the info re that ceremony.—Ann Cobb

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On behalf of Historic Sotterley Plantation and the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, community members and leaders are invited to an ancestral remembrance ceremony on Monday, November 12, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. at Sotterley Plantation. This ceremony honors the people transported against their will from the Gold Coast of Africa who died in the Atlantic Ocean and also those who arrived during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Owners of what was later to become known as Sotterley Plantation participated in the trans-Atlantic slave trade on the Patuxent River in the early 18th century. There is documentation of persons perishing during the passage and being thrown overboard. Some of those who survived the passage remained here, while others were shipped into Virginia. Sotterley’s owners maintained their wealth and property through enslaved labor for 165 years.—SotterleyPlantation

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The Founding of Sotterley Plantation

James Bowles, son of a wealthy London tobacco merchant and member of Maryland’s Lower House of the Assembly, purchased a 2,000 acre tract that would become Sotterley Plantation. In 1703, he built the original two room house which today stands as a unique record of a method of construction called post-in-ground architecture, once common in the Tidewater regions. Two years after the death of Squire Bowles in 1727, his young widow, Rebecca, married George Plater II. Over the years, the Plater family converted the simple residence into a charming 18th-century Mansion house, which they named after their ancestral home, Sotterley Hall, in Suffolk, England.

It was under George Plater III, sixth governor of Maryland, that the house reached its distinctive form, which may have served as a model for other such homes in the region.  The design of the Chinese Chippendale staircase and the shell alcoves in the drawing room is attributed to Richard Boulton.  They are considered among the finest examples of 18th-century American woodwork.—Sotterley

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Preserving an American Treasure

The first recorded archaeological investigations at Sotterley were undertaken in 1972, revealing bricks that may have been the foundation of a dairy. Many 18th century artifacts were found, including dark green bottle glass, wine glasses and ceramics that suggests the area may have included a colonial structure built to keep wine chilled.

A rich trove of artifacts was excavated around the slave cabin in the mid-1990s. More than 17,000 artifacts were unearthed, including animal bones showing signs of butchery, building materials, traces of coal (for heating) and oyster shells (for drainage). The discovery enabled archaeologists and historians to compare the material conditions of life before and after Sotterley’s slaves received their freedom.

Not all of the excavations turn up information about the Sotterley residents with whom we are most familiar, those who began living on the property in the 1700s. Discovery of a prehistoric site at Sotterley suggests that people of the Early to Middle Woodland period (3000-1000 BCE) made their home here, too.—sotterley

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The Black Count

Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

By Tom Reiss

Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo—a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature. Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.

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Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves

By Henry Wiencek

Is there anything new to say about Thomas Jefferson and slavery? The answer is a resounding yes.

Master of the Mountain

, Henry Wiencek’s eloquent, persuasive book—based on new information coming from archaeological work at Monticello and on hitherto overlooked or disregarded evidence in Jefferson’s papers—opens up a huge, poorly understood dimension of Jefferson’s world. We must, Wiencek suggests, follow the money. So far, historians have offered only easy irony or paradox to explain this extraordinary Founding Father who was an emancipationist in his youth and then recoiled from his own inspiring rhetoric and equivocated about slavery; who enjoyed his renown as a revolutionary leader yet kept some of his own children as slaves. But Wiencek’s Jefferson is a man of business and public affairs who makes a success of his debt-ridden plantation thanks to what he calls the “silent profits” gained from his slaves—and thanks to a skewed moral universe that he and thousands of others readily inhabited.

We see Jefferson taking out a slave-equity line of credit with a Dutch bank to finance the building of Monticello and deftly creating smoke screens when visitors are dismayed by his apparent endorsement of a system they thought he’d vowed to overturn. It is not a pretty story. Slave boys are whipped to make them work in the nail factory at Monticello that pays Jefferson’s grocery bills. Parents are divided from children—in his ledgers they are recast as money—while he composes theories that obscure the dynamics of what some of his friends call “a vile commerce.”

Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 18 October 2012 




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