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Excavating History: Archeology, Diving & Museums


On February 15, 2021 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm (EST) the Howard University Alumni Association will host a virtual live panel of esteemed alumni who are pioneers in the effort to research, unearth, preserve, interpret and present this link in the history of the African Diaspora.


We invite all alumni and the community at large to join us as we celebrate Black History Month.  Not only will this stimulating panel discussion afford its audience a rich and rare glimpse into a relatively new area of archeology, but it will provide an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from Howard University alumni who are literally making Black history come alive in our lifetime.

The panel will feature:

  • Mary N. Elliott, Esq. (‘88) is the curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She co-curated the museum’s “Slavery and Freedom” inaugural exhibition and is a team member of the museum’s Slave Wrecks Project.

  • Kamau Sadiki (’80) is a Board Member and Lead Instructor wit Diving with Purpose, which is an international organization committed to resurrecting the stories of slave shipwrecks through underwater archeology excavation. Diving With Purpose trains African American to become skilled scuba divers so that they may be instrumental in chronicling their own history.

  • Dr. Justin Dunnavant, Ph.D. (’09) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University and is co-founder and President of the Society of black Archeologists. His current research in the US Virgin Islands investigates the relationship between ecology and enslavement in the former Danish West Indies.

  • Dr. Alexandra Jones, Ph.D. (’03) is the Founder and CEO of Archeology in the Community which is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to revealing the various ways in which archeologists uncover hidden secrets from the past.


According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database roughly 35,000 ships brought over 12.5 million Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas during the 350 odd years of the slave trade. However, not every ship made it safely to its destination.  From the 15th to the 19th century there was an estimated 500 to 1,000 ships that were purportedly wrecked. Nearly 500,000 lives were lost. Yet, to date only the remains of five shipwrecks have been found. (“Diving Into the Unfolding History of Wrecked Slave Ships,” by Tara Roberts,, August 22, 2019) 


This modern era has afforded scientists and museum curators the magnificent opportunity to gather pieces of archeological puzzles that heretofore were implausible to solve. For over 10 years efforts have been underway to unearth shipwrecks held in the tight liquid grip of waters off the coasts of South Africa, Florida, St. Croix, Alabama, Senegal, Brazil, Cuba and other sites. It is an undertaking which engages archeologists, historians, scuba divers, teachers and scientists. The collective goal is to unearth the histories of the captors and their enslaved which have been sitting at the bottom of the sea for hundreds of years. Thanks to the stellar contributions of these Howard University alumni, the goal is within our grasp.

Georgette L. Greenlee, 


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