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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Retracing an African slave route 400 years later

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Retracing an African slave route 400 years later
Retracing an African slave route 400 years later

August 2019 marks 400 years since an English settler in the colony of Virginia recorded the arrival of African slaves, and Reuters photographers retraced the trail millions were forced to travel in chains from one continent to another.

Zachary Goelman reports.

Chains.

Whips.

Iron collars.

Shackles for adults and for children.

Diagrams on how to use them.

These are artifacts of the transatlantic slave trade.

August 2019 marks 400 years after an English settler in the colony of Virginia recorded the arrival of African slaves.

And to showcase that dark period of history, Reuters photographers set out to gather images that tell of the horror millions were forced to endure.

They went back to where it began.

Landmarks of the slave trade dot the coast of West Africa.

Many are now museums, where visitors find new meaning.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TOURIST AFI KOUFAHENOU, saying: "We just here for vacation, and I just brought, my daughter is born in America.

I brought her back home to know her roots, where her great-great-grandparents came from, because they just feel like they are Americans." Afi Koufahenou is originally from Togo, and she wanted her American-born daughter to understand something about her history.

That's what brought them to the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, one of almost 40 slave fortresses, the last spot on African soil for those shipped to the Americas.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TOURIST AFI KOUFAHENOU, saying: "I want my kid to know the true story.

It's not only what is in the book.

But come to the source.

Touch the real story.

And they can feel it.

And put Africa, have Africa in their hearts." Further inland, the Asin Manso river is known as the last bath, where slaves were forced to wash before they were confined and transported.

Regis Thompson and her church group from Long Island visited the site to pray.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AMERICAN TOURIST REGIS THOMPSON, saying: "When I think about my ancestors, and all they had to do, we have not accomplished very much.

We have a lot of work to do." Laura Laurel is a graduate student in New York.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. GRADUATE SUDENT LAURA LAUREL, saying: "And to make it here for those of my ancestors who were not able to come back.

None of my family has been to the continent.

So I am blessed to be the first to be able to come back." Transatlantic slave shipments were banned in the U.S. in 1808, but an illegal trade continued for another 50 years.

Slavery in the United States would legally endure until the American civil war.

The 400 year anniversary puts a renewed focus on that history.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) AMERICAN TOURIST DAWN KRAVIG, saying: "I wanted to learn about slavery because I'm an educator in the United States and it just breaks my heart to know that other human beings could treat other human beings in this horrific manner.

And it's unbelievable and unacceptable, and I wish that all Americans could experience this." Albert Som-Pimpong is originally from Ghana.

He's lived in the U.S. for 30 years.

This was his first visit to a slave fort in his native land.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TOURIST ALBERT SOM-PIMPONG, saying: "It's definitely, definitely important and necessary that we talk about it, over and over again.

Because if we don't, we'll repeat the same mistakes.

It's important that it is constantly spoken about.

Not in an angry way.

Not in a bitter way.

Not in an act of revenge.

But we have to remind ourselves of the evils."

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