Maison des Esclaves

The Ford Foundation recently awarded a $1M grant to Sites of Conscience for continuing work on the reinterpretation and revitalization of the Maison des Esclaves, an important eighteenth-century site of West African slavery on Goree Island, just off the coast of modern Senegal. This site played a key role in the deportation of Africans who would eventually arrive on San Domingue, right up to the crucible years of the Haitian Revolution.

UVA Architectural History professor Louis Nelson played a leading role as part of the Site of Conscience team that worked to develop the application proposal and is now a lead member of the research team working to develop interpretive content for the series of exhibitions at the site. The proposal has the enthusiastic support of Senegal’s Ministry of Culture and the local community, and the research team includes Senegalese academics. The project scope is the conservation of two late eighteenth century buildings, the wholesale reimagining of the site’s interpretive scheme including materials and programs that begin with historical representations of the site’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade but also with the responsibility to facilitate conversation among the thousands of Senegalese schoolchildren who visit the site each year on the complicated history and legacy of Africans enslaving Africans. The next phase of the project is a June meeting of the African members of the Sites of Conscience to engage conversations about best practices at various African sites on the complicated topic of slavery and its legacies.  

Sites of Conscience is a "global network of historic sites, museums, and memory initiatives connecting past struggles to today's movements for human rights and social justice.”