On Sunday, November 1, “CBS 60 Minutes” will air a special segment on the São José slave ship. The ship was carrying in excess of 400 enslaved Africans from Mozambique to Brazil before it sank off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, in 1794.
But objects from the shipwrecked site, which has been undergoing excavation driven by the Slave Works Project (SWP), surfaced just this year, and will be on display at the Museum for African American History and Culture, currently being built in Washington, D. C.
Scott Pelley, an Anchor and Managing Editor at CBS News traveled to Mozambique Island in East Africa with Lonnie Bunch, the Director of the Smithsonian African American Museum.
In his article on the CBS News website, “Inside A Sunken Slave Ship, Pelley walks the path that the slaves walked, as he speaks with Bunch. At one point during their walk, Pelley asks the director, “What does the black man see, that I can’t see?”
“A combination of unbelievable pain, a sense of anger, a sense of loss, but also an amazing sense of optimism — that people who shuffled down this ramp, those that were able to survive, built the Americas.”
Another article at the Smithsonian News Desk website provides a timeline of events that surround the incredible discovery of artifacts from the shipwreck, which itself was only found in 2010. The artifacts are said to be helpful in piecing together what actually happened.
Anthropologist Steve Lubkemann is one of those to speak on camera about his findings on an investigation of a Portuguese ship that had hit bad luck at The Cape of Good Hope. It notes 200 slaves drowned in the wreck.
Below Lubkemann describes one of the archived items he retrieved.
“We have the captain’s account and he signed his name here, 220 years ago,” says Lubkemann, who adds. “He said he decided, ‘to save the slaves and the people.’ The people are the crew. The slaves are just cargo.”
Artifacts were found over a period of 300 dives, but one of them stands out as being the most revealing. Pictured above, (though covered in marine growth when found), x-rays reveal a shackle that was used to bind slaves.
Below, Lonnie Bunch reveals why the discovery of these artifacts are essential to the history of black people and the world.
“Perhaps the single greatest symbol of the trans-Atlantic slave trade is the ships that carried millions of captive Africans across the Atlantic never to return. This discovery is significant because there has never been archaeological documentation of a vessel that foundered and was lost while carrying a cargo of enslaved persons. The São José is all the more significant because it represents one of the earliest attempts to bring East Africans into the trans-Atlantic slave trade—a shift that played a major role in prolonging that tragic trade for decades.”
The special segment on the Sao Jose Slave Ship airs on “CBS 60 Minutes” on Sunday, November 1, at 7 p.m. EST. Watch a clip of the special here.