James Island highlights the horrors and untold suffering of hundreds of thousand people being captured as slaves. Here, in the middle of the Gambia River, the slaves were held prior to sailing. Only a 10 minutes boat ride from the island, you find the village Juffure. Here a family claiming they are the descendants of Kunta Kinte live.
Have you heard about Kunta Kinte, from the best-seller novel “Roots”? Maybe the most well-known slave in the history. The author of the book, Alex Haley, traced the history of his family back to an African ancestor who was kidnapped from near Juffure. When visiting the village you will meet a family, which claim to be the descendants of him.
Since Alex Haley traced his roots to this poor Gambian village the residents of Juffure have come to depend on tourists. Sometimes pretty aggressively! Many children beg and sing when seeing tourist arriving. Sellers can be annoying! In an attempt to cut down on this harassment of tourists, only local guides run tours.
A quick 10 minutes boat ride from Juffure, you will arrive to the UNESCO World Heritage: James Island. Here it is quiet. Nobody lives here. Nobody sells anything. Visitors just wander the sad, sinister ruins of caves and prisons where the slaves were put before sent to the American colonies. The island is today only one sixth of the size as it used to be. As the river rises, it washes away the evidence of major slave trading in West Africa.
If you are lucky, you can still find pearls from the jewellery used by the woman captured as slaves and taken to the island. As they were treated brutally, their jewellery was often ruined leading to that millions of pearls fell into the ground. On my trip there, I found a beautiful pearl made of stone with an engraved face.
I recommend a visit to James Island and Juffure. Why? First of all, for the historical importance. Secondly, it made a very strong impression on me. You can still feel the horror, and sadness visiting James Island. The transatlantic African Slave trade is a historical accident, the world should never forget! We should have learned from it! The world should have erased slavery by now! Sadly, today there are more slaves in the world, than it have ever been before in the history. So did we actually learn from the past?