A museum in Morro da Cruz, far from the hustle and bustle of Angola’s capital Luanda, puts the history of slavery and how it disrupted the social fabric of the country under the spotlight. The National Museum of Slavery displays hundreds of items utilized in the slave trade.
Although Angola has the third-largest economy among sub-Saharan African countries, the exploitative system and slave trade of Western countries, which inflicted heavy damage on the country in the past, are cited as the biggest reasons why at least one-third of its population of approximately 30 million live in poverty.
According to the records, a British pirate ship anchored at Point Comfort, Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of the U.S. in August 1619. There were more than 20 Angolans on board, who were forcibly detained from a Portuguese ship. The arrival of these Angolans in Virginia 400 years ago is considered the beginning of a slave trade that lasted for more than 200 years in the U.S.
Although most of the slaves from Africa were taken from Ghana and Senegal, it is known that more than 5 million came from Angola, and a quarter of the approximately 400,000 Africans sent to North America were sold by the Portuguese who dominated the slave trade for decades.
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Built in 1977 by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the museum exposes the brutal history of slavery in Angolan lands. The country gained its independence in 1975 but still faces the damage inflicted on its social fabric centuries ago.
Located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the museum neighbors the island of Mussulo and Kwanza River, an important trade route where victims of the slave trade lived in the past.
The museum, which was quickly renovated after suffering damage during the civil war, hosts thousands of foreign visitors from many countries, including Portugal, Germany, Spain and Russia. Americans have also shown a particular interest in the museum.
The artifacts depict the scenes where slaves were put on ships to be transported to America. Exhibits include shackles used to restrain people on ships, iron weights, sculptures featuring slaves, models of ships from the slave trade period, weapons and materials used in daily life at that time.
The museum also houses cauldrons from the 18th century where Africans, who were forced to convert by their Portuguese "masters," were baptized while they were waiting to be loaded onto ships.
The museum, which also includes many souvenir shops, can be visited for $1.70.
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