Those of us old enough to remember the TV adaptation of Alex Haley's ‘Roots’ will surely know the name Kunta Kinte. For those lucky enough to be younger, here's a quick summary:
Kunta Kinte was captured in the 18th century, and sold into slavery in America. For decades, his descendants were slaves, and Roots tracks the family story through the generations. The family of Kunta Kinte still live in Juffureh.
Whether or not there is a direct link between Alex Haley and Juffureh, the fact remains that slavery took place, and St James' Island played an important part.
The trip to Juffureh will give some insight into the history of slavery, where the local guides will tell the story of how the village played its part in the slave trade.
However, the story you will get is 'the way it was', with no right or wrong.
The statue on the shore front at Juffureh is a stylised man-form in Black and White. The broken chains represent freedom from slavery. The words at the bottom say 'Never Again'.
The village of Juffureh has remnants of occupation by, (in chronological order), Portuguese, French and British.
Near the river bank there is a small fenced compound, with a cannon and a flagpole. After the abolition of slavery in 1807, (actually, the abolition of the collection of slaves), men were 'freed' from St James' Island. Freedom was conditional to the men swimming to the shore and touching the flagpole. Gambian men are strong, but not swimmers, and sadly no 'freed' men survived.
A short boat journey takes you to St James' Island, (formerly St Andrews Island but now renamed Kunta Kinteh Island). This is where African men were held before branding and selling into slavery.
Erosion has claimed much of the island over the years. The remains of a stone built Govenors house still exist, along with a small cell which is said to have held up to 60 Africans.
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At the western end of the island a flagpole flies the Gambian Flag along with the Freedom Flag.
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