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Historic Arkansas Museum to Host A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie


Historic Arkansas Museum (formerly the Arkansas Territorial Restoration), a historic site and history museum in Little Rock, will host the traveling exhibition, A Slave Ship Speaks: The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie Sept. 14 through Nov. 25.

The Henrietta Marie, an English merchant slave ship, is the only identified merchant-slave ship found in the Americas to have sunk in the course of the slave trade. The exhibition is a moving, interactive exhibit that traces the history of the Henrietta Marie, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, conditions that spanned it and its impact on our society. Artifacts include the ship’s bronze bell, embossed with the inscription “The Henrietta Marie 1699”; a cannon; copper cook stoves; pewter ware; glass beads; iron shackles and other relics from the ship. The wreck, discovered in 1972, is considered the world’s most important source of artifacts from the early period of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The museum also plans a series of educational programming for school groups during the stay of the exhibition. Teachers and other group leaders may contact the museum for special tours of the exhibition, related programming in the museum’s Hands-on History Room and teacher resources such as lesson plans and classroom activities.

In the year 1699, the ship left the port of London on her second slaving voyage, carrying a cargo of European manufactured goods for trade in West Africa. After she exchanged her cargo for enslaved Africans and ivory on the African coast, the ship sailed to Jamaica, where she exchanged the captives for sugar and logwood. With a cargo hold full of New World goods, the Henrietta Marie began her long voyage home to London, where she planned to sell her valuable cargo. It was during her return voyage that she foundered and sank on New Ground Reef near the island of Key West, Fla. in 1700.

General Motors is the national tour sponsor, and the exhibit is sponsored by the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, with major national funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Florida Department of State, Bureau of Historical Museums and the James L. and John S. Knight Foundation.

Local sponsors for the exhibition are the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation; Natural and Cultural Resources Council; Community Foundation, Bridge Fund; Entergy Corporation; Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield; Cingular Wireless; Comcast Cablevision; Citadel Broadcasting; GM Dealers of Arkansas; Philander Smith College and Pyramid Art, Books and Framing.

Mr. Roderick D. Gillium, General Motors Vice President, Corporate Affairs, has stated:

This fascinating exhibition provides a remarkable opportunity for people of all backgrounds to examine first-hand a part of history that continues to have extraordinary ramifications. The Henrietta Marie tells a story which must be told, and we at General Motors are committed to making this experience available to every American.

More information on the Henrietta Marie may be found at at <>, the web site of the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum.

Historic Arkansas Museum opens its doors daily to the oldest neighborhood in Little Rock. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Guided tours of the museum’s historic homes depart on the hour except noon. All exhibitions and other activities inside the museum’s new, 51,000-square-foot museum center are free to visitors, including Arkansas art and artifacts, an interactive children’s gallery, orientation theater and expanded museum store.

Historic Arkansas Museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, which was created in 1975 to preserve and enhance the heritage of the state of Arkansas. The other agencies of the department are the Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Old State House Museum and Delta Cultural Center.

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