During the African slave trade, South Carolina received more slaves than any other mainland colony. As many as 260,000 enslaved Africans entered South Carolina from 1670 to 1808. Most of those slaves disembarked here, at Gadsden’s Wharf, located on the Cooper River in Charleston, between today’s Calhoun and Laurens Streets and from the harbor to East Bay Street.
The wharf complex was built in the 1760s and 1770s by Christopher Gadsden, a prosperous merchant a Revolutionary War leader known today for having designed the Don’t Tread on Me flag known as Gadsden’s Banner.
Gadsden’s Wharf complex was the largest in North America, featuring an 840-foot river wharf that berthed six ships at once and the capacity to hold up to 1,000 slaves on land.
Between 1783 and 1807, the height of the international slave trade, an estimated 100,000 West Africans landed here. Many were shipped elsewhere in the continent but many remained in South Carolina. Now the site of the International African American Museum, Gadsden’s Wharf was the largest single point of entry for enslaved Africans in American history.