Did Barack Obama Pick the Wrong Venue for Anti-Slavery Speech?

Colin Freeman, Telegraph (London), June 28, 2013

For a black American president on a tour of Africa, it seemed an obvious opportunity for a speech about the evils of slavery. When Barack Obama visited Senegal on Thursday, he headed for Gorée Island, where a crumbling fort is said to have been the key departure point for millions of slaves shipped across the Atlantic.

Yet as the president toured the 18th century building and later spoke of how the visit had allowed him to “fully appreciate the magnitude of the slave trade”, historians pointed out that it was probably never used for that purpose at all.

Pictures on Thursday showed Mr Obama standing with his wife Michelle at Gorée’s so-called Door of No Return, a dark passageway from where the fort’s human cargo is said to have been loaded via gangplanks onto ships.


However, despite the claims that millions of slaves passed through the door, its most likely use is now thought to have been for disposing of rubbish. Likewise, the waters it overlooks are too rocky and shallow for a slave ship to have used it as a loading bay.

“There are literally no historians who believe the Slave House is what they’re claiming it to be, or that believe Goree was statistically significant in terms of the slave trade,” said Ralph Austen, a professor at the University of Chicago who has researched the subject.

Mr Obama is not the first international statesman to have made a pilgrimage to Gorée, which lies a short boat ride from the Senegalese capital, Dakar, and which has long been a draw for both foreign tourists and African Americans seeking to discover their historical roots.

Others who have visited in recent years include Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and Mr Obama’s predecessors in the White House, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

The fort’s museum was opened in 1962 by the late Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye, a Senegalese who was a passionate advocate of the belief that it had been used to transport slaves in great numbers. Its reputation spread worldwide thanks partly to the powerful symbolism of the Door of No Return, which was said to have offered slaves a final view of their homeland before the Atlantic crossing.

Yet its historical claims to be at the epicentre of the slave trade have long been in question. Most agree now that while slaves were indeed kept at the fort, they were there not for mass onward transport but for use by the fortress’s own residents. A more likely point of departure was another fort nearby, although records suggest that at most, some 26,000 slaves were sent there – a fraction of the claims of up to 15 million touted by the museum staff.

Other slave forts along the West African coastline, such as at Cape Coast in Ghana, have much more substantial claims to being major slaving centres. However, historians who have questioned Gorée’s claims have often been accused of attempting to “deny” the extent of the slave trade. Given the amount of tourist income that the island generates for a country still living in poverty, there has been little incentive in Senegal itself to put the record straight.

The US president was visiting Senegal as part of a week-long tour of Africa, and was due to land later in South Africa, where the country’s former leader, Nelson Mandela, is now critically ill. On Friday Mr Obama, travelling with a White House press pack on Air Force One, the presidential jet, insisted he would not be seeking a “photo op” with Mr Mandela.

“The last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned about Nelson Mandela’s condition,” he said.

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  • Puggg

    “There are literally no historians who believe the Slave House is what
    they’re claiming it to be, or that believe Goree was statistically
    significant in terms of the slave trade,” said Ralph Austen, a professor
    at the University of Chicago who has researched the subject.

    Does that matter? Who needs the truth when politically correct narratives and sob stories are handier?

    • The__Bobster

      Hell, most Bantus think “Roots” was an actual story.

      • me

        And a lot of dumb leftists as well….

      • Mark Hillyard

        Wish I had a video of this Black Guys face when I told the speach club I belonged to that I would not have allowed the book ‘Roots’ because it’s main idea was to incite hatred towards whites and “sow discord” among the people. I really think that some of these things are done for that purpose only, as there is little if any true facts in books of this sort, just a lot of ‘poor pitiful me”, bull do, and a feeling that ‘we will get our revenge’.

    • jane johnson

      “Particularly on the Left, political thought is a sort of masturbatory fantasy in which the world of facts hardly matters.”

      George Orwell

    • Stentorian_Commentator

      I would like to put that door back into use, as the Door of Return to Africa/No Return to the United States.

  • CJ Haze

    A more likely point of departure was another fort nearby, although records suggest that at most, some 26,000 slaves were sent there – a fraction of the claims of up to 15 million touted by the museum staff.

    Just a tad off on the numbers… and the facts, and the location, and the race, and the time.

    • The__Bobster

      It sounds like the Zulus were coached by the usual guilt-instilling suspects.

      • MawellAxel

        i bet they have a facespook page

      • gemjunior

        It sure does…. and here’s another prime example of how well they were coached: “Historians who’ve questioned Goree’s claims have often been accused of attempting to “deny” the slave trade. Given the amount of tourist income etc.”
        Ooh, those dolla signs $$$. Dey is gon’ make fat stacks. There’s no business like Woe Business….. One question, just one is all that’s required. Like asking any question about the holocaust – such as where are the gas chambers – is the same as saying it never happened. Now asking about the discrepancy between 26,000 and 15,000,000 and you don’t believe even one African was shipped to America? Wow, that’s a long jump and there’s only one other group of victims that make that long jump. Well, now two. So much the better, far more vibrant and enrichment. Why a bland white man when you could have such enrichment as wise negros, Latinas, etc.? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

    • MawellAxel

      maff be hard yo

  • Spartacus

    “However, despite the claims that millions of slaves passed through the
    door, its most likely use is now thought to have been for disposing of


    Africans, rubbish – What’s the difference ?

  • sbuffalonative

    That this door was likely a corridor to dispose of trash is apropos (for two reasons).
    How could a door that is wide enough for only one person be considered a portal for millions of Africans.

    • MawellAxel

      well, he was in the appropriate place, a trash chute, he should have jumped through it.

  • Creepy as a cracker!

    And as we know, slavery is still practiced in Africa!

  • Oil Can Harry

    “However, despite the claims that millions of slaves passed through its door, its most likely use is now thought to have been for disposing of rubbish.”

    Same thing.

  • Erasmus

    And someone should ask those Senegalese who was it who sold their black brethren to the European slavers. Remember that because of malaria, Europeans couldn’t enter the African jungles and needed natives resistant to malaria to capture their black brethren for them.

    • The__Bobster

      Well, sort of European.

      • me

        Jews owned, insured, and financed slave ships and outfitted them with chains and shackles for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. They were auctioneers, commission merchants, brokers, and wholesalers, keeping the slave economy oiled with money, markets, and supplies.

        BELOW: Confederate two dollar bill featuring the face of Judah Benjamin.

        • Mr. Benjamin was CSA’s Secretary of State, so it isn’t a big suprise his portrait would appear on a banknote. He had previously served in the Louisiana state House of Representatives and then was elected to the US Senate. Before entering politics, his early career was as a lawyer, and not some sort of slave-trader (importation of slaves into the US had ended January 1, 1808). At some point he did own a plantation, but he sold this in 1852 after his election to the Senate.

          Numerically, most of the slaves were shipped by Portuguese. Since Jews had been expelled from Portugal in 1497, before the trans-Atlantic slave trade began, I suspect that very few of the Portuguese slave traders were Jews. Moreover, King Phillip II of Spain seized the Portuguese throne in 1581 and proceeded to enforce the expulsion of converted Jews there, along with converted Moors, these latter beginning in 1609. The Inquisition played a leading role in identifying Jews, Muslims and “converts” from both groups.

      • me

        Of course, that doesn’t exonerate the people, Black and White, for buying the slaves.

  • The__Bobster

    It appears that the Usurper is looking for a slave ship to toss the First Wookie into.

  • MawellAxel

    what a portent of the future. Just days before his foreign policy and health care plan were to be declared total garbage!

    • MawellAxel

      In other words, … how prophetic, days before his whole presidency is confirmed to be nothing more than garbage, he is photographed standing in a garbage chute thinking it is somehow of great significance!

      • me

        This photo should be used for his ‘official’ portrait…..

  • RHG

    At this point it doesn’t matter anymore, it serves a propaganda purpose

  • Since President Oogabooga is so obviously an empty suit, why on Earth would it matter to him what Goree’s fort had actually been used for? He’s pure packaging and nothing else, so his statements about slavery should be taken with as much seriousness as Shrubya’s facile boasts about Mexican “family values”.

    • IstvanIN

      True, his African fans here in America believe anything he says.

  • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

    Some say it’s a door of no return for millions of slaves, others say it’s a garbage chute. Me, I’m looking for the contradiction. “It’s a dessert topping and a floor wax!”

    • me

      LOL! SNL’s golden years….

  • anarchyst

    Another lie, like the six million that those of the “tribe” like to spout. . . actually around 731,000 . . .

  • anon

    Not just ok, it’s even our fault somehow.

  • AR once had a regular poster whose screen name was “Playing Roots Backwards,” alluding to just that.

  • No, but the Secret Service agents did: “We have two for you.”

    • me


  • Nathanwartooth

    I love how the liberals writing in the comments said that it doesn’t matter what the door was used for. Since they are bringing up slavery who cares about facts.

    This is the same kind of mentality when they catch people creating fake hate crimes. I mean, who cares about the truth anyway? It’s way more important to blame Whites at every opportunity.

    • I think the usual libtard statement is that hoaxes and lies “raise awareness” and thus are still “valuable”.

      If – as they smugly admit – that it doesn’t matter what the door was used for, why do they endlessly propagandize it as a symbol of the transatlantic slave trade? I’ll go one better; excluding cabinetry, my home has 14 doors. Does it matter what they’re used for, or does my home also automatically earn some place – facts be damned – in the slave trade mythology as well?

      Libtards obsessed with this Goree door are clearly suffering from Portalphobia and probably need psychiatric help, not least for their compulsive lying.

  • Keep Honkin I’m Reloading

    “…claims that millions of slaves passed through the door, its most likely use is now thought to have been for disposing of rubbish.”

    I fail to see the difference.

  • me

    Oh, well….the Boers in South Africa will be eliminated in a most racist and horrific manner, then the ‘groids can painfully starve to death–poetic justice.

    • Mark Hillyard

      I don’t think so ‘me’. A small well organized army can do a lot of damage to a large rabble of an army.

  • Mark Hillyard

    Personally speaking I think it’s easier to pay people to work for you than to own a person. Let them take care of themselves and fire them when they become useless. Cruel, I know!

    On a darker side of me…any maroon ((of) a dark brown-red color:) would know that to ship cattle, or bulk of any sort you need a really big door or loading dock. I doubt that any engineer or architect would say, “Oh, we’re only pushing black slaves through this door so let’s make it small and be stupid about it.”

    • Exactly. The railroads used Irish and Italians and paid them 10 cents a day to lay track. Out in California it was Chinese. When a worker got hurt too badly to work, he was fired. That could have never been done with slaves; a 17 year-old black male cost $1000 in 1859, and if he got hurt, his master was out the whole investment.

      The result was that in 1860, the Union had 2.4 times more railroad track mileage than the Confederacy.

      • MBlanc46

        That was an argument that some pro-slavery writers made: that slavery was an uneconomical paternalistic system compared to exploitative “free labor”. And yet the slaveholders kept buying up as many as they could afford. I suspect that Robert Fogel has it basically right when he argues that slavery was very profitable in cash crop production and that free labor would not have been effective in the gang system.

    • WR_the_realist

      Indeed, that’s why illegal immigrants are so much more convenient for our corporate elites than old fashioned slaves. When a slave got ill or old you still had to take care of him, like my sister does with her lame horse. But a sick or old illegal immigrant is a problem for the tax payer, not for the slaughterhouse that employed him.

  • Paleoconn

    How stupid is this Obama anyway? And the other bozos that bought the line that this was a door to slave ships? were slavers back then logistical retards to have such a small opening to ships, where only one slave at a time can pass? At least it was a kind of homecoming for Barack and Moochelle, rubbish returning to rubbish.

  • Mark Hillyard

    What? Ya telin me you’s gotsta grow dat sheet?
    If an honest poll was taken of inner city dwellers (hue not withstanding) they’d show no clue as to where all that food comes from. Sorta like the welfare piggybank that never ends or appears empty.

  • bubo

    That sounds like something africans would do. Shove millions of people out a hole the size of my bedroom door.

    • It’s better than that. Goree is an island two km out from the main harbor at Dakar, Senegal. Why ship slaves over a mile out when they could be loaded directly onto ships at the main harbor almost due west? The Wikipedia article on Dakar clearly shows Goree Island’s position relative to the city and harbor itself.

      The island’s commanding position made it a natural candidate for the siting of fortifications to guard the approaches to the main harbor, not as a commercial port itself.

      The “slave house” on Goree wasn’t built until 1776, almost at the end of the transatlantic slave trade.

  • FourFooted_Messiah

    Oh, let him go preach at Muslim slave markets, which are bound to still exist.


      Oh, come on now. Haven’t you heard, Muslim’s are not the enemy, returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are.


    Does truth really matter when talking about slavery? NO, it most certainly does not!

    FACT: Just 5% of white southerner’s owned slaves. When the north is added in it means that in all of America only 2 & a half percent of the white population owned slaves. Yet somehow every white American is loaded with the guilt of slavery, reality be damned. The odds that the average white American of today is a descendent of 1 of the 100’s & 100’s of thousands of white men who gave up their lives to bring slavery to an end. Is astronomically more likely than being the descendent of an actual slave owner. But, that’s just one of those “mean spirited” facts the talking heads on TV seem so intent on ignoring. And as we all know, in today’s America even facts are deemed racist if it cast a certain protected species in the negative light that they themselves have created. So NO, truth means nothing when it comes to slavery, not to mention just about every other racial issue in America.

  • Cite dates and names that I can look up. I’ll wait.

  • The Dutch were either the third or fourth biggest players in the transatlantic trade, and this usually involved running “contraband” slaves to colonies belonging to other European powers. Dutch sailors were excellent, and their ships drew less water than British or French equivalents, in order to negotiate the shifting sandbars off the Netherlands’ coast, so they could easily land and sell slaves in places the Spanish and Portuguese navies weren’t watching.

    • MBlanc46

      West Indies Huis still exists in Amsterdam.

  • As awful as they look, if my daughter was taken by Arabs, I would just start killing Arabs until I found out where she was. I’d eventually find one who would talk while I used bolt-cutters on his fingers. I never promise them they will live when I do this.

  • Historians claim Obama’s ‘Door of No Return’ which he visited to
    highlight the evils of slavery is a ‘scam’ and was actually used as a
    garbage dump.”

    Well, maybe it was used for African slaves after all.