From the esplanade, an enormous open-air staircase leads the visitor down to the underground passageway, which forms the heart of the Memorial. There, visitors are welcomed by theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, behind which the word Freedom is displayed in around fifty languages, originating from the countries affected by the slave trade  (view the translations of the word « Freedom »).

Once in the underground passageway, the visitor can pick out, on the left between the supporting pillars, the Loire River, and on the right an immense glass plaque, 90 metres long.

This plaque displays a selection of texts from all the continents affected by slave trading, over five centuries (between the 17th and the 21st centuries): laws, personal accounts, literary works, songs, core abolitionism texts, etc. (view texts from the Memorial).

At the western end of the passageway, some key historical dates and locations provide context for the history of Atlantic slave trading. They highlight the scale not only of historical events, but also of the fight against enslavement yesterday and today (view abolition chronology).

« The transformation of a space which is currently « empty » into a « passageway » provides a link with the ground under the city of Nantes, on both sides, land and sea. Visitors to the Memorial will themselves go down « towards the sea » via a passageway which follows the 19th century quay. In some places will find themselves hemmed in by 20th century substructures, a feeling reminiscent of the extreme confinement experienced aboard the slave ships. These areas, some discovered and some newly created, will also communicate to visitors the emotional strength of the implicit and explicit imprisonment suffered by slaves as they were housed and transported. An enormous glass plaque, set at a 45° angle as if it has been thrown through the Memorial, celebrates the enormous change represented by the abolition of slavery. » « This underground passageway will be the heart of the Memorial« .

Krzysztof Wodiczko and Julian Bonder, Memorial designers