Slave pew in the balcony at First African Baptist Church


Slave pew in the balcony at First African Baptist Church
Memorialization of Urban Slavery in Southern Coastal Cities


slavery; memorials


The original balcony pews at First African Baptist church were built for and by slaves when the building was constructed in 1859. The writing on the ends of each pew are written in an African dialect known as "Cursive Hebrew."
This project was funded by Bernard and Anne Spitzer Travel Fellowship for research projects involving travel abroad and incorporating the study of architecture, landscape architecture, or urbanism.
My goal was to research, witness, and record how each of my chosen Southern port cities has dealt with its past in regards to urban slavery, and to begin making a record of this history. Although all of the locations I visited were major hubs of the American slave trade, these cities remain mostly lacking in admitting their full and complete history. The inaccurate and incomplete narratives, lack of memorials, and white-washed histories designed to appeal to the tourist industry do not tell the stories of the slaves in an unbiased and forthright way. So much of what I witnessed revolved around a very racially divided tourist industry, but I know that change is possible. The story of urban slavery is not just the story of African Americans in the United States, but the story of all of us, and the more we can understand this, the better off we all will be.


Whang, Maura


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Whang, Maura


Architecture and City Planning




Savannah, GA




Whang, Maura, “Slave pew in the balcony at First African Baptist Church,” Spitzer School of Architecture, accessed May 26, 2024,

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