To culminate a visit to Sierra Leone by Mr Michael Boulware Moore, the President and CEO of the International African American Museum (IAAM), the cities of Freetown and Charleston have expressed a significant interest in moving toward creating a twinning relationship.
Mr Moore and his team from the IAAM are paying a visit to Sierra Leone as a prelude to developing strong, strategic mutually beneficial relationships with citizens, museums, cultural institutions and academic institutions.
Sierra Leone and Charleston, South Carolina share ties that date back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave when Bunce Island in Sierra Leone was a major center for slave trade. The majority of Sierra Leonean slaves that left Bunce Island were taken to Charleston, South Carolina and Georgia to work on rice plantations. The traditional rice growing skills of people from the ‘Rice Coast’ of Africa, of which modern day Sierra Leone was a major part of, was much sought after by rice planters in South Carolina and Georgia.
Thus, Bunce Island is the place in Sierra Leone where captives’ feet touched African soil for the last time and Gadsden Wharf in Charleston, South Carolina is the place these captives touched American soil for the first time, which highlights the significant & unique ancestral ties that bind Sierra Leone & Charleston.
On a personal level Mr. Moore, a Gullah, traced his ancestry through DNA testing to the Mende people of Sierra Leone, so his visit is a ‘Homecoming’ and has tremendous personal significance.
Talking about his experiences in Sierra Leone Mr. Moore said “Millions of African Americans dream of being able to know and experience the land of their ancestors. For me to have been able to do so these past few days, in such a profound way, truly illustrates the vast potential in more formally leveraging this potential by connecting our history, our people, and our cities. From my vantage point as CEO of the International African American Museum, to be built on the spot where more enslaved Africans landed and were sold than any other place in America, I look forward to working with Charleston Mayor, John Tecklenburg, and Her Worship The Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr toward this important and mutually beneficial end.”
The International African American Museum, the City of Charleston and the Freetown City Council have expressed a desire and enthusiasm to activate this relationship and to consolidate and harness the potential benefits of these historic and cultural ties, creating a bridge for those whose ancestors left Bunce Island hundreds of years ago, to return home.
“The Freetown City Council is excited about this opportunity that links our two cities. Spending time with Mr Moore and his team in Freetown, Bunce Island & Taiama further strengthens my resolve to consolidate the relationship. At the recent launch of Transform Freetown, job creation with a tourism focus was highlighted as a key priority for the FCC. Whilst this collaboration will harness beneficial cultural and economic opportunities for both cities, Freetown City Council’s agenda to provide jobs for Freetown’s youth through tourism will reap considerable gains.” Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE, Her Worship the Mayor of Freetown.’
As the IAAM and Charleston and the Freetown City Council develop these relationships, this initiative supports the Mayor’s efforts to drive job creation in Freetown through tourism in a bid to Transform Freetown. The Freetown City Council will work in close partnership with the Monuments & Relics Commission and the Ministry of Tourism & Cultural Affairs to realize these benefits in a coordinated manner.
Head of IEC Unit
Freetown City Council