About SWP


What is the Slave Wrecks Project?


The Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) is a long-term collaboration between six core partners, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the U.S. National Park Service Submerged Resources Center (NPS SRC) and its Southeast Archaeological Center (NPS SEAC), the George Washington University Capitol Archaeological Institute (GWU CAI), IZIKO Museums of South Africa, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), and Diving With a Purpose (DWP). The project integrates research, training and education in the pursuit of new scholarship on the global slave trade, utilizing the lens of slave shipwrecks as its unique point of entry.

A Brief History of SWP


Launched in 2008 as the Southern African Slave Wrecks and Diasporan Heritage Routes Project with a seed grant from the Ford Foundation, the project initially focused on Southern Africa, launching its first research efforts in the Republic of South Africa. From its inception the project has sought to assist developing-country partners in the advancement of cultural resource management programs that can preserve and protect irreplaceable heritage related to the historical slave trade and to the processes that formed Africa’s global diaspora, while also fostering a unique niche for regional cultural tourism with tangible economic benefits and promoting capacity-building for educational, heritage and scientific institutions in partnering countries.

Now in its second phase (2012–2017), SWP has expanded the geographic scope of the project to reflect the global reach and impact of the African slave trade. While the project continues to pursue and expand its activities throughout Southern Africa, the current phase also features the development of activities in other regions as well. Work is currently in progress and partnerships are under development in North and South America, in the Caribbean, in West Africa and in the East Africa/Indian Ocean regions.