Savannah's Slavery Monument
This monument was made possible by a $100,000 donation of Dr. Abigail Jordan, who also worked for over a decade to convince city leaders to allow for the dedication of a monument that recognized Savannah's connection to the slave trade. The statue was dedicated on July 27, 2002 and stands to remind residents and visitors of the history of slavery and emancipation. The statue depicts a family with chains at their feet who are finally able to embrace one another after slavery's demise. The location of the monument is significant, standing near the point of entry for many slaves who first arrived in Georgia through the riverfront markets. The monument is also significant as the first in the city to commemorate the experience of African Americans. Prior to its dedication in 2002, none of the more than 40 statues, plaques, and monuments in Savannah paid tribute to individual African Americans or the experiences or contributions of African Americans.
Backstory and Context
Retired professor Dr. Abigail Jordan worked for ten years and donated $100,000 to make the statue a reality. Savannah College of Art and Design Professor Dorothy Spradley and her student Dan Koster designed and built the monument.
The monument was finalized only after poet Maya Angelou accepted a compromise with Mayor Floyd Adams and other city leaders and influential citizens who were unsettled by Angelou's quote because of its graphic depiction of conditions within slave ships. In order to end their opposition and allow the monument's dedication to move forward, Angelou and black leaders in Savannah agreed to "soften" the poet's quote by adding the final line "Today, we are standing up together, with faith and even some joy."
In 2001, Angelou explained why she and other black leaders wanted to make sure that her original quote, which includes a reference to the unsanitary conditions slaves endured during the Middle Passage, was included on the monument. "The picture of it, it's so horrible. And yet if we can see how horrible it is, then we might treat each other a little nicer."
The inscription reads:
We were stolen, sold and bought together from the African continent. We got on the slave ships together. We lay back to belly in the holds of the slave ships in each others excrement and urine together, sometimes died together, and our lifeless bodies thrown overboard together. Today, we are standing up together, with faith and even some joy.
Angelou penned the final line and gave the city permission to modify her original quote to include this as on the monument so long as the rest of the quote was not modified.
Associated Press Wire, "Savannah Divided Over Monument," Los Angeles Times, Feb 10, 2001. http://articles.latimes.com/2001/feb/10/news/mn-23539.
Adams, Nordette. The Bridge and the Monument: a Tale of Two Legacies by. Accessed October 01, 2017. http://www.writingjunkie.net/bridge-monument.html.