News / USA

Students Try to Save Slave Island in Sierra Leone

Students heading for Bunce Island, Sierra Leone
Students heading for Bunce Island, Sierra Leone

Some former slave ports in Africa are now tourist destinations, but not Bunce Island in Sierra Leone. It's abandoned and its slave castle is in ruins.

The British established Bunce Island as a slave port in the 1670s.

From here, thousands of West Africans were sent in chains to rice fields in the American south.  

Planters from colonies in South Carolina and Georgia were willing to pay extra for the expertise of the rice growers, captured on West Africa's rice coast, stretching from what is now Senegal to Liberia.

Journalists, students, staff and teachers from the Fatima Institute, in Makeni, Sierra Leone, recently decided it was time for them to look into this history themselves.

They traveled in a cramped four by four on a route that included driving on railroad tracks, and then getting on a pirogue (boat).

They broadcast their journey into history live on their radio station back in Makeni, via cell phone.

One teacher, Boniface Sidiki Kamara, expressed concern at how difficult it was to get to the island.  He compared it unfavorably to a trip he made to tourist sites in Europe. "I remember when I went to Italy, I saw the grave, the tomb of Saint Francis of Assisi. You could see thousands of people lining up just to go pay and see this place," he said.

The live commentary of their trip continued from the leaky pirogue, with one student David Ngobeh being handed the phone. "Oh, Charles, this is quite impressive," he said.

After several hours, the group finally arrived, tired but reenergized.  For most, it was their first time on an island they had read about in textbooks and even dreamed about as a link to the rest of the world.

They said the slave history tying Sierra Leone to Europe and the United States was not shameful, but instead a source of pride.

They all expressed disappointment that their own government was not doing more to conserve the island.

"It tells you about man's inhumanity to man, I mean, the cruelty of man, the evil side of our own nature as human beings. But also it tells you about the resilience of the human spirit, that I mean people survived after being shipped from this place. Because of slavery, because of this experience, so many people came out and they have done good to our world," said Reverend Joe Turay from the Fatima Institute.

Turay said turning the island into a tourist spot also could help Sierra Leone overcome its own painful past, following years of civil war. "This takes us to the new discourse of human rights. There are various forms of injustices happening in our situation, in our country, in our context today.  The slave island should serve as a symbol, as a symbol of resistance, a symbol of the fight against injustices," he said.

At the end of the visit, the group broke out in impromptu singing, feeling very much connected to world history and hoping others could also feel some of their emotions for this abandoned, but not forgotten, place.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More