Family Travel

Nassau, Bahamas – The Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation

master_jubaWhile our traveling companions spent hours pouring over the goods under the sweltering tents of Nassau’s Straw Market and the men escaped to Señor Frogs, Kayla and I ducked into to the air-conditioned comfort of the Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation.

Sitting next to the Straw Market, the museum is located in the Vendue House, built in 1769 to provide a market place for commodities that included enslaved people. Currently, the museum hosts the traveling exhibition, Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery.

With shackles, slave branding iron, and slave house furniture to add intimidating visuals, the bulk of this exhibit is composed of posters that tell the story of enslaved Africans in the Americas. While not downplaying the horrors of slave trade, the primary focus is on the triumphs of a people who “were active, creative agents in the making of their own history, culture, and political future.”

You won’t find many artifacts in this exhibit, and you can read the posters online, but it’s still worth visiting the museum if you travel to the Bahamas.

Through this display, I discovered some interesting connections. For example, one poster tells the story of William Henry Lane, aka Master Juba, the man who is credited as the father of tap dancing. In the mid 1850′s, Master Juba improvised on Irish Clog Dancing to create an entirely new form of dance that incorporated the complex African drum rhythms.

This is just one of many examples where European tradition and African heritage melded to produce a distinctly new American expressive culture.

It seems especially appropriate to view this exhibit next door to the Straw Market where you can see examples of just a tiny bit of the artistic contributions of the descendants of these peoples.

Frankly, to fully appreciate the arts, culture and cuisine of the Caribbean, as well as the Americas, it’s important to understand how enslaved Africans and their descendents shaped and transformed the New World.

Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery offers a glimpse into this rich and complex history.

Find It!

Pompey Museum (Vendue House)

Bay Street Nassau
New Providence Island
242-326-2566

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