Scientists in United States Use DNA to Uncover Story of Charleston Slaves

| How Africa News


Scientists in the United States are utilizing ancient DNA to learn more about the lives of 36 people who were buried in unmarked graves in Charleston, South Carolina, in the late 1700s.

On the east coast, it is estimated that more than 40% of all enslaved Africans came through the city’s harbor.

During the trans-Atlantic slave trade, it was the most important port of disembarkation in North America.

The Anson Street location was discovered in 2013 while construction workers were digging foundations for a new arts center.

Scientists have learned more about these people and their lives since then by extracting genetic material from their remains.

“This is a way of restoring dignity to individuals that should have always had this dignity all along,” she said.

It’s one of a growing number of projects using ancient DNA research.

The region is littered with the unmarked graves of these enslaved people, but most of their names and stories have been lost to time.

“They lived, they worked, they died. And, now, they’re being remembered forever,” said retired city planner, Ervin McDaniel Jr, and Yoruba drummer.

Now, 36 people living in the area, including McDaniel are serving as models, their hands to be cast in bronze, to represent each of the ancestors

They will become part of a memorial fountain at the site in Anson Street.

Community members have also submitted DNA samples, hoping to find a personal connection to one of the ancestors.

So far, there have been no matches, but La’Sheia Oubré, a community outreach organiser with the Anson Street African Burial Ground Project says that doesn’t matter.

“The one loving thing about this whole project is they’re just family. We are all just family of the 36 ancestors. And that their story is our story,” she said.

In 2019, the ancestors remains were reburied at the site during a traditional Yoruba naming ceremony.

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