Bunce Island: A British Slave Castle in Sierra Leone

Bunce Island was once a key base of operations for European slave merchants in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Still standing are ruins of the slave castle, the last place captives set foot before boarding ships for America.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
12:00pm @ Central Library

An exhibit documenting the history of Bunce Island, a key base of operations for European slave merchants in Sierra Leone, will be on display starting Saturday, June 12, at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

The exhibit, Bunce Island: A British Slave Castle in Sierra Leone tells the story of slave trading venture located off the coast of West Africa.  From this site, traders sent nearly 30,000 African captives to the Americas between 1670 and 1807.

While other West African slave castles delivered the majority of their captives to the West Indies, Bunce Island sent many to North America, especially the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia.  The Gullah people who live in this region today are descendants of these slaves.

The exhibit includes drawings of the slave castle made in 1726, 1748, and 1805; pictures depicting the slave trade era; photos of the ruins as they appear today, as well as computer illustrations showing how the castle appeared in 1805. 

Joseph Opala, the exhibit's curator, has spent 30 years researching the site's history and its ties to the American slave trade.  He considers Bunce Island the most important African slave castle for Americans because of the large numbers of slaves who were sent to America from this site.  Opala, who teaches at James Madison University in Virginia, will speak at the Central Library on Thursday, July 8.

The exhibit will remain on display through August 8.  It is co-sponsored by the Library and the Sierra Leone United Descendants' Association of Greater Kansas City, a not-for-profit striving to promote multiculturalism through cooperation.