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.
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.