NEW YORK, NY
The Transatlantic Slave Trade was a horrific set of events that completely changed the cultural identity of an entire race of people. The global identity of native Africans and their descendants was forever changed starting with the first ship to leave Africa with human cargo. All those involved may not have realized the full historical effects of what this singular, horrific event would have on all of humanity, but we all must acknowledge its significance.
The proposed monument design, “Oppression’s Answer” combines materials and forms to comprehensively express the tragedy and legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Each element plays its own role in telling the story of this event. The footprint of the base of the monument measures 6 FT. x 15 FT. (1.83 m x 4.57 m), providing a total square footage of 90 S.F (8.36 m2). The vertical elements fit into a slightly smaller footprint of 10 ft. x 5 ft. The vertical elements reach a height of 10 FT. (3 m). The total composition weights approximately 26,000 lb. and exerts a force of approximately 290 lb/sf (1,415 kg/m2 ).
The chosen materials have inherently different properties to form a complete expression. The monument is composed of two distinct pieces- a ruby red vertical granite slab on one side and, 19 bent steel strips on the other side. The strips frame a narrow walkway that takes visitors between the two forms from either side. The strips appear to be held in place by a series of rusted chains that are connected to the granite slab at various heights and angles. The 19 strips represent the number of African nations affected by the trade. The strips are angled both away from and towards the granite wall as if being pulled back toward the wall as they are fighting to free themselves. This push/pull acknowledges the struggles that went on during the slave trade as well as the lingering struggles that resonate with us as today.
On the open side of the granite wall, a map and timeline detail the full extent of the Transatlantic slave trade both geographically and chronologically. This is meant to educate people on the true impact of this event. The map details the routes (land and sea) that were taken throughout the trade, the significance of the middle passage and the linkage between Africa, Europe and the newly settled colonies across the Atlantic. The timeline serves to highlight the individual events that make up this conflict, starting from 1501 when the first slaves were delivered to Santo Domingo (now the capital of the Dominican Republic), to 1865 when slavery was abolished in the United States.
The base of the monument is composed of limestone. A quote by Booker T. Washington the African-American educator, author, orator, and political leader, is inscribed in an angled section, beneath the steel strips:
“You can't hold a man down without staying down with him.”
― Booker T. Washington
“Oppression’s Answer” is meant to give all visitors a sense of the magnitude of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade by giving the visitor a sense of what this event was like form an emotional as well as a physical sense. We all have the responsibility to acknowledge this event and give ourselves permission to move into the future with forgiveness.