Brown University to display historic slave shackles

Brown University’s Hay Library will display a set of historic shackles used by slave traders to transport Africans to the new world for sale as slaves.

The slavery shackles are on loan from the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, U.K., through March 13. The museum only recently acquired the artifact, which serve as a grim testament to the violence and inhumanity Africans were subjected to during the Middle Passage, even before they were sold at auction.

Professor Anthony Bogues, director of Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, said the shackles are an important relic of the bloody past the modern era was built upon.

“These shackles ... pressed the flesh of a human being and bring to the fore the violence of slavery,” Bogues said. “Such material objects are necessary for us to have a full and frank conversation about the character of slavery and the making of our modern world.”

He also pointed out that shackles such as the ones set to go on display at the Providence, Rhode Island university were powerful images in the fight to end slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Brown is the first place in the United States to be granted the honor of showcasing the shackles. Richard Benjamin, who heads the International Slavery Museum, said it’s important for Americans to see the shackles and take away a better understanding of how the slave trade operated in the country.

“The shackles ... are difficult to look at and evoke strong emotions,” Benjamin said. “But it is important that they are on public display so that people can tangibly experience the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade.”

The exhibit opens at Brown University’s John Hay Library on Jan. 27.

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