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The old Fort of James Island (re-named Kunta Kinteh Island in Gambia) is located about 30 km upstream on the river (see map) and is home to the ruins which once belonged to colonial Britain. This was the last bit of African soil that many slaves saw before being transported in the bowels of transatlantic slave ships to the Americas.

The area was 'discovered' in 1456 by the Portuguese navigators Antoniotti Usodimare and Captains Luiz de Cadamosto on their second expedition up the river Gambia. They called it St. Andrews Island supposedly after a sailor who had died and was buried there. The name was changed by later European colonialist. It was purchased by the Duke of Courland 200 years later after which the Baltic Germans began building the fortifications in 1651 so it could be used as a trading post between Latvia, Lithuania and the local Africans.

It was seized by the British 10 years later in 1661 under the hands of the Royal Adventurers Of England Trading Into Africa, who received a Royal Patent from Charles II to buy ivory, gold and other commodities as well as slaves. They renamed the island James Island after the heir to the throne who was to become King James III [1].

The significance of this take-over was James Island represented Britain's first outpost in West Africa [2]. The island subsequently changed hands many times over the next two centuries particularly between the French and British.

In 1779 French troops based at the slave post of Albreda, near Juffure, were ordered to deal with the British once-and-for-all and they were duly ejected for the last time from the island and the French proceeded to destroy it. After the passing of the abolition act of 1857 the British moved their emphasis to fighting slavery and chose the forts of Banjul and Barra to achieve this. By 1830's the island was abandoned for good.

Today, on a visit to the island, the ruins of colonialism and slavery can still be seen. There are caves and prisons on the island where slaves were imprisoned before being shipped off to the American colonies. There are also some cannons standing in their military attack positions.

The island sadly is shrinking due to coastal erosion and has reduced in size to a great extent compared to its heyday as a slave collection point and trading post.

Travel Information
A trip to Kunta Kinteh Island [James Island] is usually done as part of a 'roots tour' which also includes the nearby villages of Juffure and Albreda as well as to the museum. It can be reached by taking a ferry from Banjul to Barra on the north bank of the river. From there a taxi or other vehicle would take you by road to Juffureh. Accommodation available are the Kunta Kinte Roots Camp or the Juffure Guest House. There is a restaurant called the Rising Sun Restaurant there.

The other route is to take a Roots cruise by boat upriver directly to the island. These boats are run by local operators based at Denton Bridge.

Nearest Accommodation:

Jimbana Park Eco-lodge

KKRC Tel: 9914508
Home At Last Motel Tel: 9926276

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[1] Gambia - Michael Tomkinson
[2] Encyclopaedia Britannica 2014

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