The Discovery of the Sao Jose Paquete Africa


Dr. Jessie Fields sends us a poem she wrote last year, inspired by the discovery of the sunken Portugese slave ship, the Sao Jose Paquete Africa in 2015 off the coast of South Africa. The ship sunk in 1794 with over 400 slaves aboard.

Jessie shares with us:

In 1794, Mozambique Island was the capital of Portuguese East Africa.

Carved onto the wall of the former French Consulate on Mozambique Island an inscription in Portuguese reads:

“Remembering the thousands of slaves that were torn from the Mozambique Island and from our continent so we can battle poverty, sickness, H.I.V., AIDS, malaria, famine and corruption.”

A poem dedicated to the millions and millions of enslaved people whose toil, blood and tears build America and Europe and to those who carry the mantle of leadership forward.”


The Discovery of the Sao Jose Paquete Africa


Below a mountain top, off the Cape of Good Hope dive.

To the ocean’s multitudinous bottom sink.

In the dark in a slave ship hold there lie.


The ship too close along the rocky brink

a storm splits. Two hundred and twelve people drowned

And two hundred survived still to be sold into slavery.

The inquest records in his own words found

The Portuguese captain survived to testify.


Retrieve the sea preserved shackles of trade in African people.

The old blocks and cooper buckles, the iron ballasts weighed against

human bodies, now to a different use double, every people

Of a world revive. Ascend to the air with manifest of centuries past.

Lift the discovery a searing beam from far, in hands black and white

These artifacts hold, remains for all who remain to fight.

  Jessie Fields, December 2015


Underwater archaeology researchers on the site of the Sao Jose slave ship wreck near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.  Photo courtesy Iziko Museums.


To learn more, you can watch a video about the discovery of the Sao Jose Paquete Africa.

From the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture


Our celebration of National Poetry month continues with poems chosen or written by P4P members.  

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  1. thank you for so powerfully teaching us this history Jessie

  2. June hirsh

     /  April 30, 2016

    Thank you Jessie for all that you give in the name of freedom, justice, democracy – to bring an end to racism and poverty..


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