‘Powerful moment’: Obama tours historic slave-trade site off Senegal coast

Visiting a site where African slaves were shipped to the New World, President Obama said Thursday the experience made him more committed to human rights.

“This is a testament to when we’re not vigilant in defense of human rights, what can happen,” Mr. Obama told reporters at a museum on Goree Island, a UNESCO world heritage site off the coast of Senegal.


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“Obviously, for an African-American, an African-American president, to be able to visit this site, I think, gives me even greater motivation in terms of human rights around the world.”

Mr. Obama, his family, aides and Secret Service agents took a six-boat “floater-cade” to the island, which served as a staging area for slave traders centuries ago.

There is debate among historians about the extent of Goree Island’s role in the slave trade, but UNESCO describes it as a place where “hundreds of thousands of captured men, women and children were rounded up in chains to be shipped to servitude in the New World.”

The president stood for several minutes at the museum’s “door of no return,” peering “pensively” out to the sea, said a pool reporter who accompanied Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama called the tour a “very powerful moment” and said it helped him “fully appreciate the magnitude of the slave trade” and “get a sense in an intimate way” of the hardships slaves faced.

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