Unveiled in 2002, Savannah’s African-American Monument honors the contributions of its black citizens to its history, economy and culture, and acknowledges the city’s role in the institution of slavery. The monument was placed near the river, on the ground where many African Americans first stepped foot.

It depicts a family of four embracing after emancipation while chains representing slavery lie at their feet. The contemporary dress of the sculpted figures symbolizes the African American journey since slavery and the survival of the black family, creating a connection between the past and present. The monument faces in the direction of Africa, lying between the waters that carried slaves to Georgia and the warehouses that once held the cotton picked by black labor.

Engraved in on the pedestal are these words by Maya Angelou:

“We were stolen, sold and bought together from the African continent.

We got on the slave ships together.

We lay back to belly in the holds of the slave ships in each others’ excrement and urine together, sometimes died together, and our lifeless bodies thrown overboard together.

Today, we are standing up together, with faith and even some joy.”

The monument was designed by Savannah College of Art and Design Professor Dorothy Spradley. She was assisted by one of her students, Dan Koster, who built the architectural model for the monument.

Abigail Jordan proposed to build a memorial to African Americans in 1991. She pointed out to municipal leaders at the time that none of the city’s forty-three monuments addressed the role of the slave trade. She wrote: “Over five million visitors will walk [this year] on the unmarked cobblestones of River Street with no understanding of the [slave] hands that laid them or of the notorious [slave] ships that docked at River Street two centuries ago.”

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