Slave Wrecks Project

SWP and partners DWP interns and researchers measuring submerged artifacts in Key Biscayne, Florida (2022)


The Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) is a groundbreaking initiative hosted by George Washington University and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

SWP is an international network of researchers and institutions that provides a unique approach to studying the history of the international slave trade. Using collaborative methods of maritime exploration and investigation, archeology, and historical research, SWP has been able to build and share new knowledge about the global slave trade and its enduring legacies. SWP works on archaeological sites both under water and on land, and we are present in museums, classrooms, communities, and the digital space.  

SWP uses maritime archaeology with a broader suite of interdisciplinary methods to locate, and investigate shipwrecks and related terrestrial sites with historical connections to the transatlantic slave trade. With the help of institutional partners and community organizations, SWP develops conservation and protection plans for different geographical sites, as well as a comprehensive gamut of scholarly and public dissemination. SWP provides education, academic and professional training, and public interpretation programs that focus on the transatlantic slave trade and its enduring legacy. 

Why SWP?

three men putting on scuba gear at the back of a boat

SWP divers and researchers, Marc-Andre Bernier and others, preparing for L’Aurore dives in Mozambique.

three men posing and hugging on side of boat

SWP researchers Cezar Mahumane, Julio Ceasar da Silva Marins and Madicke Gueye in Mozambique before dive.

divers underwater looking at artifacts

SWP-A researchers diving in Key Biscayne, Florida measuring submerged artifacts (2018)

The Slave Wrecks Project searches for slave ships one voyage at a time. SWP examines sites, histories, and legacies connected by those voyages.

Our mission is to humanize the history of the global slave trade to expand understanding on how the transatlantic slave trade has shaped the world in which we live in. Our method has allowed us to recover and share the experiences of those who did not have a voice to speak about the most horrific and extensive trade of people in world history. SWP seeks to bring the immensity of that history to a human scale, voyage by voyage. Through SWP’s efforts, previously submerged archeological remains and long-neglected histories are recovered, restored, protected and shared. 
SWP catalyzes a new field of research – maritime archeology – in the scholarship of slavery and the slave trade. Our unique approach allows for new perspectives and information to be revealed and shared. SWP establishes a new model for international collaboration among museums and research institutions, and it links research to professional training, institutional capacity building, heritage protection and heritage tourism. 

Explore the Program

two divers underwater looking at artifacts on ocean floor

Slave Ships

divers with heads above water


two divers underwater, looking at clipboard

Where We Go

students working in classroom, rows of desks and students at each desk writing and mapping

For Students


Staff and Faculty


Headshot of Stephen Lubkemann

Stephen Lubkemann


As a sociocultural anthropologist, Dr. Lubkemann focuses primarily on social and political change in nations that have experienced protracted conflict and violence; on migrants, refugees, and diasporas; on international development and humanitarian action. As an archaeologist, he focuses on cultural heritage and maritime archaeology. He is an associate editor of Anthropological Quarterly, co-founder of the Diaspora Research and Policy Program, and founder of the African Slave Wrecks Project.

Headshot of Raquel Machaqueiro

Raquel Machaqueiro

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Machaqueiro’s research is focused on forest conservation policies conceived internationally and implemented in countries of the Global South. She investigates the circuits of these policies not just in their North-South flows, but also across the South. Her particular interest is in market-based conservation mechanisms such as REDD+, and in the ways through which carbon is conceived and valued as a commodity. She also studies policy-making processes, researching issues of bureaucracy, authority, and language ideologies. Her research is based in Brazil and Mozambique.

Headshot of Yariana Rodriguez

Yari Rodriguez

Project Administrator

Yariana Rodriguez is the Research Program Associate of the Slave Wrecks Project. As the Primary Administrator she manages the project from George Washington University. She received her B.A. in Hospitality Management from the University of Puerto Rico and her M.A. in Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution from Norwich University. She has a background in grant writing, developing and managing government funded programs, and has previously worked with several refugee resettlement agencies throughout the DC area.


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Building X
Slave Wrecks Project
2112 G St. NW
Washington, DC 20052