Kunta Kinteh Island, The Gambia
This tiny island located on the Gambian River and which joins the Atlantic Ocean is steeped with heartbreaking history of the slave trade. Its location in the heart of the river made it a strategic place to control the waterway. Although the Island’s size has been steadily decreasing due to erosion, the ruins that remain there tell a chilling story. It is a significant piece of history and should definitely be on your list of places to see if you’re visiting the country.
Kunta Kinteh Island, formerly known as James Island, and some nearby areas are on the UNESCO World Heritage List because they have important relics of the West African slave trade. Alex Haley’s book which was adapted for a TV series, Roots, portrays Kunta Kinteh being brought by slave ship from this Island to Maryland.
The Island and the linked sites on the Gambia River give outstanding evidence of the different aspects of the African-European encounter, from the 15th to the 20th centuries. The River became the first trade route into the interior of Africa and became an early corridor for the slave trade.
The trip itself can be a humbling experience. It is hard to imagine the suffering that people went through during the dreadful years. It becomes especially poignant in light of the recognition that it could have been any one, friends, family or even we ourselves. It would not be surprising that anyone visiting the Island feels this way.