Slavery – The Goree Island guides – what is happening now?

The Slave Narrative as told by Goree Island guides  – what is happening now?

By: Guyana -born Muriel Glasgow, now resident in New York – June 2011

Many of us have an understanding about the Slave Trade and the Slave Routes.  I thought I did, but despite the fact that I visited slave houses on Goree Island in Senegal as well as castles in Ghana and listened to the guided narrative, it was not until this time on Goree Island last week, that I was able to separate emotions from overcoming my ability to listen dispassionately. 

And this is what I heard –

  • Africans rounded up families and brought them to the Goree Island to be sold. (I no longer was lost in the why of this)
  • Upon arrival at the slave house, the families were separated – Men to their cells, women to their cells, children 6-17 years old to their cells.
  • Children under 6 years old were killed/eliminated as there was no room on the slave ship for unproductive groups; men under 60 kg in weight fitted this category and they were also gotten rid of.

The able-bodied men 60kg and over were shipped off to Louisiana; the women were sent to Cuba, Brazil; the children 6-17 sent to Haiti and the West Indies.  This was the Goree Island narrative.  Other slave house narratives might speak of different landing points.

What intrigued me during this visit was the plight of the under-sixes and of the women, for any woman arriving pregnant to the slave house was sent back to the village.  If a woman was impregnated by the colonials, she was also sent back to the villages.

The plight of women and the under six population exists to this day – the under six population is also seen as unproductive and investments are not made or seem to be overlooked as regards their education, development, well being.

This is where I believe that countries should be focusing their investment dollars if they are to win the future in education as President Obama alludes to.

If they are to develop a cohort from the under-six population from which scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, could derive instead of offering up the usual fare of delinquents, street children, fodder for the prison population, or limiting their scope of possibility to athletics and entertainment.

Children on Slave Ship:Most of those who were transported to the “New World” from Africa via the Middle Passage were under 16 years of age.  

I would like to suggest that the Guyana Cultural Association of New York  (GCA), begin a series on our history, to help us in  eliminating the pain from the memory and replacing pain with strategy as we go forward to create a better world, culturally, for the legacy of Guyana’s children.              

This is a link below I would like to share which gives a somewhat balanced view of the earlier history.  We also need to be able to separate the narratives told by white historians  and the narratives told by black historians; somewhere in the middle lies the truth. We need to read and understand both sides of the historical narrative to act strategically.    a book written by Zinn, parts of which could be read online.


That was then, what is happening now?

These days there is modern day slavery click on link below – and the children are still the disadvantaged.  Think of the cocoa you drink and the hands and backs that toiled to produce it.

Concerns grow for slave ship children

by BARBARA JONES, Daily Mail

At least 300 children are facing an agonising death on an overcrowded ‘slave ship’, aid agencies fear.

They say scores may already have died in atrocious conditions aboard the small, rusting Etireno, which left Benin in West Africa a week ago.

The ship was turned away from Cameroon, where the children aged only ten and 11 were to become slaves on cocoa plantations, and neighbouring Gabon.

Its captain, Staneslas Abatan, knows he faces arrest if he returns to Benin. Aid workers believe he plans to stay out in the Gulf of Guinea until all the children are dead, and there is no evidence left of his trafficking.

Those who are not killed by lack of food and water may simply be thrown overboard alive. The ship was carrying at least 300 children when it left Benin, but witnesses who saw it off Gabon late last week say there were already far fewer.

The journey to Cameroon normally takes only two days and it is unlikely there would have been food or water on board for much longer.

The voyage of the Etireno and its pitiful human cargo starkly demonstrates the failure of international efforts to stamp out child slavery in West and Central Africa.

The children on board would have joined thousands of others working 12-hour days carrying heavy sacks of cocoa beans or toiling in the…
Read more:

Contact: Muriel Glasgow, MPH

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 06/29/2011 at 9:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Muriel. Speechless.

  • ben de castro  On 06/30/2011 at 12:34 pm

    to Cyril Bryan
    date Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 8:23 AM
    subject Re: [New post] Slavery – The Goree Island guides – what is happening now?

    Cyril, thank you for this honest appraisal of history. I have always wondered why history books on slavery never mentioned the Goree Island circumstances. I knew from other history of Africa that when African Kings/Chiefs won battles with other villages, they take prisoners and sell them to Europeans Slave Traders. I often wondered why this important piece of history was omitted from most history books.
    Today’s situation in our cruel world is really troubling as slavery is back with a different twist. Young women are kidnapped (some are duped into the idea of a better life elsewhere) and sold as sex slaves. Children are placed into sweat shops to work.(low cost goods). People who are forced to work for very low wages to satisfy greedy corporations are slaves/servants of the new capitalism. While it is good to learn history, we have serious problems going forward in dealing with the human condition. God bless.
    I pray everyday for Justice for the Poor and the Downtrodden.
    Regards. Ben.

  • Jeannette Allsopp  On 07/01/2011 at 5:19 pm

    I have read the excerpt on the recruitment of slaves from Goree island and relived the horors that our unfortunate ancestors suffered. I agree with the suggestion that our history be studied further so that we can have some light thrown on who we really are and from whence we came. Knowledge of the past enables us to go to the future feeling more secure, because we know where we came from and will better know where we are going.

  • Richard Lewis  On 07/02/2011 at 6:02 pm

    It is good to know what happened to us in the past that has brought us to the present condition(s) in which we now find ourselves but are we, as a people, looking at where we really are and what we must do to ensure that the current (enslaved children) situation does not repeat. And I believe that it is time for us to stop blaming the whites for the atrocities of the past and look for solutions in dealing with the phenomena of Africans enslaving Africans.

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