Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project
Almost everyone has heard of the Middle passage in one form or another, but how many people knew about Philadelphia's involvement in this lucrative, yet tragic moment in history. The Transatlantic Slave Trade was the spearhead of the economic birth of America and other countries that had theirhand in it. Africans brought to America are considered the first of the proletarian class.
The Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) is a national organization based in FL and was founded in order to bridge the gaps and bring awareness to this major historical event. The Executive Board of Directors is chaired by Executive Director, Ann L. Chinn, who is also the Project founder. She has worked as an advocate for children and families in Washington, D.C., a textile artist, a retailer, organizer of a collective artists market, and historian.
"Research identifying all ports of entry for Africans during the 350 years of the transatlantic human trade identifies the Port of Philadelphia on the Delaware River as one of more than 175 middle passage ports in 50 nations of North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) plans to conduct ancestral remembrance ceremonies by geographic regions in all U.S. cities that were middle passage ports."
"In support of this mission, On June 2, each year, the Philadelphia Middle Passage Ceremony & Port Marker Project (Phil- lyMPC) will honor our ancestors and commemorate the nearly 2 million Africans who perished in the Middle Passage. Our immediate goal is to gather support for the application and installation of a historical marker in their memory." -MPCPMP Mission Statement
The person in charge of putting together the MPCPMP in Philadelphia is Denise Valentine. "I found out about the organization October 2012 and not too long after in January 2013 I received a letter asking if I could put together and host the one in Philadelphia," said Ms. Valentine.
So far she has put together the event for a few years, making 2015 the third year. She vowed that she would organize the ceremony every year in Philadelphia on the second of June but this past year was a struggle.
"I knew I was going to go through with the event, but I got very discouraged. I was seeing schools closing, I was seeing black men and women being shot down and I'm thinking â€˜there's too much other stuff going on, this is important but there are other thing that are more urgent.' I also got discouraged because I kept getting that question, "Why is this important?" said Ms. Valentine.
"It's important to me because it happened, and Philadelphia is trying to act like it didn't happen. Philadelphia has built its reputation as the birthplace of freedom and independence and liberty and they might talk about the underground railroad." said Ms. Valentine. She went on to tell us how Philadelphia was involved in the slave trade even after slavery was abolished. She works with the middle passage project, but she is also very intimately involved in other historical projects in Philadelphia.
"They are revealing the history of not only slave ownership but slave trading, and how this city benefitted from all of the above. Slavery ended in Pennsylvania fairly early compared to the rest of the country, but even after 1780, Philadelphia residents continued to own slaves keeping them on plantations outside of the city," relayed Ms. Valentine.
"In 1780 Philadelphia passed the Gradual Abolition Act which allowed them to not set any enslaved Africans free right away. There were still people living here enslaved up until 1840. Those born before 1780 were enslaved for the rest of their lives, and anyone born after 1780 had to still be enslaved until they reached the age of 21 and in some cases the age of 28. They had to work off and pay back their masters what it cost to raise them," explained Ms. Valentine.
"Benjamin Chew, who was Chief Justice of Pennsylvania in 1774, Attorney-General and Builder of "Cliveden" in Germantown Philadelphia, and his family owned over 400 enslaved Africans over seven generations. They are still living off that wealth today and even after slavery ended in PA they still held slaves on their plantations in Virginia. They married into a family, the Browns, who owned a textile business at the time. Even when they no longer owned slaves they still owned the raw materials, like cotton, used to make the textile," Ms. Valentine continued.
"George Washington, the first President of the U.S. owned enslaved Africans here in Philadelphia. He owned more than that because his plantation was in Virginia but here in Philadelphia he brought nine Africans with him to the first White House," Ms. Valentine recounted.