Artist’s Rendering of Bunce Island Slave Castle, Sierra Leone

U.S. scientists and engineers are trying to save a toppled slave fort in Sierra Leone — a site where Rhode Island captains bought African captives 250 years ago.

The team is part of a $5-million effort to preserve the fort’s stone walls, cannons and slave pens, weakened by tropical heat, rain and years of neglect.

Built on Bunce Island in the Sierra Leone River, the British fort is one of 40 slave “castles” that operated on the West African coast during the transatlantic slave trade.

It played a key role in America’s involvement in the trade, said Joseph Opala, an American history professor who is heading the project.

From the 1700s to the early 1800s, its British owners sold kidnapped Africans to New England slave captains in search of human cargo.


Bunce Island Slave Castle Ruins

About 30,000 captives were shipped from Bunce Island to the West Indies or America, where they toiled on rice plantations in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, said Opala, director of the U.S. arm of the Bunce Island Coalition.

The descendants of those slaves still live in coastal pockets in South Carolina and Georgia, Opala said. Many share cultural traits with the people of Sierra Leone. READ MORE

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