Gadsden's Wharf

Gadsden's Wharf is a wharf located in Charleston, South Carolina. It was the first destination for an estimated 100,000 enslaved Africans during the peak of the international slave trade.[1] Some researchers have estimated that 40% of the enslaved Africans in the United States landed at Gadsden's Wharf.[2] At one point, the wharf was the largest in America.[3] The wharf is now home to the South Carolina Aquarium and the International African American Museum which will open in 2022.[4]

Construction of the wharf and importation of enslaved peopleEdit

Christopher Gadsden, owner of Gadsden's Wharf

Christopher Gadsden began constructing the Wharf in the late 1760s. In the years following, Gadsden expanded it, repaired it, and updated it until the break out of the American Revolution. In March of 1787, the South Carolina General Assembly prohibited slave importation for three years. In 1800, the Assembly extended the ban until 1803. Between 1803 and 1805, approximately 80 ships brought in over 14,000 people.[5] In 1806, the first newspaper ads featuring enslaved Africans for sale at Gadsden’s Wharf appeared. Later the same year, on February 17, 1806, the city of Charleston passed an ordinance that all vessels carrying enslaved peoples had to land at Gadsden’s Wharf.[citation needed]

On January 1, 1808, Congress’ ban on slave imports took effect and Gadsden’s Wharf was put to other uses, though enslavers continued to trade in human beings until the 1860s.[citation needed]

Site of the International African American MuseumEdit

Long time mayor of Charleston, Joe Riley, first mentioned plans for a museum dedicated to the history of African Americans in Charleston.[citation needed] Nearly 20 years later, an October groundbreaking ceremony was celebrated after reaching their $100 million campaign goal.[6] Early advocates for the museum also include Congressmen Jim Clyburn, and now retired College of Charleston professor of history, Bernard Powers.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Gadsden's Wharf". International African American Museum. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  2. ^ Emerson, Anne (2019-09-17). "Gadsden's Wharf dig in Charleston reveals layers of history where slaves were once sold". WCIV. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  3. ^ Kimmelman, Michael (2018-03-28). "Charleston Needs That African American Museum. And Now". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-08.
  4. ^ Emily Williams, Adam Parker. "One year after breaking ground, Charleston's African American Museum taking shape". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2020-10-27.
  5. ^ Parker, Adam. "A brief history of Gadsden's Wharf". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  6. ^ Williams, Emily. "Charleston breaks ground on International African American Museum". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2020-11-10.