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
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 .
significance of this take-over was James Island represented
Britain's first outpost in West Africa . 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,
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
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
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.
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
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.
Jimbana Park Eco-lodge
Home At Last Motel Tel:
Gambia - Michael Tomkinson
 Encyclopaedia Britannica 2014