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Ceremony honors enslaved Africans and those lost crossing the Middle Passage

A crowd gathered Sunday on Long Wharf to remember hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans brought to North America as part of the Middle Passage — including those bought and sold on Boston’s waterfront — and more than a million who did not survive the voyage to the Western Hemisphere.

Boston University professor emerita Vivian R. Johnson said the Middle Passage Port Marker, which was installed in October, honors “people who walked and worked on this wharf and the nearby markets . . . who worked on the farms and in the houses, and attended churches in Boston and elsewhere in Massachusetts.”


“The people we remember today are part of our history, and their unpaid labor over a period of nearly 150 years was a significant component of the growth, development, and wealth of our great city of Boston,” added Johnson, a member of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project.

The ceremony included a tone poem about the dehumanization of slavery and a performance by Balla Kouyaté, a balafon player from Mali.

Later, the crowd recited the names of the first 10 people of African heritage admitted as members to Boston’s early churches, while girls in white dresses dropped carnations into the harbor in their memory.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.