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Island Keeps Memory of Slave Trade Alive


Through 300 years of slavery in the West, millions of Africans passed through transit posts where they were divided from their families and sold to work as slaves in Europe and the Americas. One of these posts was the tiny island of Goree, off the coast of the West African nation of Senegal. Kari Barber traveled to Goree Island and reports that many tourists from the West are going there to reclaim a part of their identity.

Each week thousands of Europeans, Americans, Africans and other tourists from around the world travel by ferry to Goree Island.

Africans hope this tiny, tranquil island will be a reminder of the suffering that slavery caused, with the aftereffects still affecting societies today.

Abdoulaye Ndiaye is known on the island as "Colonel." He was born on Goree and works as a tour guide. "At school they never teach you the real history, maybe just the dates. The tradition here in Africa was oral."

Today Colonel is giving a tour to Trisha Townsend and Darlene Ledsinger, two flight attendants from the United States.

He explains that from the balconies of slave houses, traders would call out prices and bargain on men, women and children.

The slaves were often kept in small holding cells downstairs from where the traders slept.

Tourist Darlene Ledsinger says, "Just the thought that they were in those holding cells for up to three months. Even a week or even a day would be too much. It is just horrifying."

This doorway leading out of the House of Slaves is known as the Door of No Return. Wooden ships once docked here to load their human cargo.

Colonel adds, "Once a slave was there, it means 'goodbye Africa'."

Townsend says it was hard not to feel unsettled by all that she saw. "I was taken aback at how human beings treat human beings. I thought it was pretty disgusting and I made a comment that we basically still do the same things to each other today, and it's sad."

Ledsinger says part of taking the trip for her was to learn more about her own heritage.

Like many African Americans, she says she has not yet been able to trace where her family comes from. She says without that she feels like something is missing. "I just came from a reunion and I am in the process of taking a genealogy course just to find out where I came from and my roots, really."

After a few hours, it was time for the two women to load back onto the ferry with the other tourists and say goodbye to the island.

Colonel says he hopes what they saw at Goree will keep them talking about slavery. In this way he hopes history may never repeat itself.

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