This exhibit tells the story of Bunce Island,
Bunce Island was one of about 40 slave castles, or fortified
trading posts, that European merchants built along the coast of West
Africa during the period of the Atlantic slave trade. Slave traders
based at the castles purchased African captives, imprisoned them, and
loaded them aboard the slave ships that took them on the infamous middle
passage to America. Slave castles have been called "warehouses
This exhibit on the history of Bunce Island and its links
to the United States is now available for venues in the United States
and Great Britain during the 2007 bicentennial of Parliament's
prohibition of the Atlantic slave trade and the 2008 bicentennial of
the prohibition of the Atlantic slave trade by the U.S. Government.
The exhibit is suitable for display by universities, museums, libraries,
and other educational institutions.
Bunce Island is the most important historic site in Africa for the United States.
The British traders based at Bunce Island shipped thousands of African captives to South Carolina, Georgia,Florida, and other Southern Colonies during the mid- and late 1700s. Rice planters in South Carolina and Georgia were particularly anxious to buy captives from Sierra Leone and other parts of the "Rice Coast" where Africans have grown rice for thousands of years. Slave auction advertisements in 18th century Charles Town (South Carolina) and Savannah (Georgia) often mentioned ships arriving with slaves brought from the "Rice Coast," "Sierra-Leon," and "Bance Island." African farmers taken from the Rice Coast region made rice one of the most profitable industries in early America.
Henry Laurens, a wealthy South Carolina slave dealer and rice planter, was Bunce Island's business agent in Charles Town before the American Revolutionary War. After the war began, Laurens became the President of the Continental Congress, and when the fighting finally ended, he was named one of the American Peace Commissioners who negotiated U.S. Independence under the Treaty of Paris. Amazingly, Richard Oswald, Bunce Island's London-based owner, was appointed head of the British negotiating team in Paris. In other words, United States Independence was negotiated, in part, between Bunce Island's British owner and his American business agent in South Carolina. The relationship between these two men reflects Bunce Island's importance in the commerce that linked Britain, North America, and West Africa during the Colonial Period.
Bunce Island was also linked to the Northern Colonies. Slave ships from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut; and New York frequently called at the castle, taking their human cargoes to the West Indies or back to the Southern Colonies. These Northern slave ships often purchased their African captives with rum produced in New England with molasses brought back to North America from the West Indies.
While thousands of African Americans are now visiting
several famous West African slave castles each year -- especially
Elmina Castle in Ghana and Goree Castle in Senegal -- Bunce Island
has a much more direct link to North America than these other historic
sites. After visiting Bunce Island in 1991, Colin Powell said:
I am an American...But today, I am something more...
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For more information on Bunce Island, see the Links page.