‘Slave trade ghost town’: The dark history of Bunce Island

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Bunce Island was a British slave trading post in the 18th century

From its shores, tens of thousands of Africans were put on slave ships to Americas

Abandoned in the 19th century, it's one of the most authentic slave trading facilities still in existence

One group is working to conserve the island's crumbling ruins

CNN  — 

As the boat slowly approaches the quiet shores of Bunce Island, it’s hard to shake off the eerie feeling of being transported back into one of history’s darkest chapters.

Located some 30 kilometers from Freetown, this tiny strip of land in the Sierra Leone river served as a major post for the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century.

For tens of thousands of Africans, this was the place where their life in the continent ended – men, women and children were kidnapped and brought to the island’s fort to be traded and eventually put on slave ships bound for the Americas.

“The African-American story is very much here,” says Joseph Opala, director of the Bunce Island Coalition, a group of historians and archaeologists working together to turn the island into a national landmark that can be appreciated for its historical value.

Historical image of the British slave trading post of Bunce Island.

Upon arriving in the American colonies, West African slaves were forced to work in rice paddies, cotton fields and indigo plantations along the South Carolina-Georgia seaboard where the moist climate and fertile land were very similar to their African homelands.

Read this: African slave traditions live on in U.S.

“There are 40 big castles like this along the West African coast, but this is the only one that sent appreciable numbers of captives to what is now the U.S.,” says Opala.

Map of Bunce Island. Click to expand.