Today marks 150+ years of celebrating of Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day.”
I’m embarrassed to admit, as a Black American, that I had no idea June 19th was significant. But given the current global reckoning surrounding Race, Juneteenth has gained more awareness.
As a travel blogger, one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had was visiting a former slave port in Badagry, Nigeria. I learned about slavery growing up, but the slave tour in Badagry was eye-opening. Unfortunately, the museums weren’t well maintained, which was a bit sad.
After my visit to Badagry, I wondered:
Where can I find slave tours around the world?
In honor of Juneteenth, I’ve decided to tackle this question and created the
Comprehensive Guide to Slave Tours Around the World
I made this list because:
- It provides a thorough resource for travelers who are interested in the history of slavery and want to find information about different slave sites around the world.
- I want to highlight slave memorials that aren’t well known, to encourage more people to visit and embrace the dark history. Also, if these sites gain more tourist dollars, then they can be better preserved.
- Visiting these sites is important. It’s one thing to study history in a classroom, but to visit a piece of the past is an entirely different experience. These are somber experiences that affect you and bring history more to life.
This is a continuous guide and over time I’ll keep adding more information as I discover more places that should be highlighted.
What is Juneteenth?
“The 19th of June wasn’t the exact day the Negro was freed. But that’s the day they told them that they was free.” Quote from Hayes Turner’s essay.
Juneteenth commemorates when slavery “ended.” On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers went to Galveston, Texas to announce that the war was over and that the enslaved were now free. It’s important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation granted freedom to the enslaved two and a half years prior, yet the news did not reach the quarter of a million enslaved in Texas. Juneteenth reflects the last place in the South, where freedom was granted.
“Slave” vs “Enslaved”
There is an important distinction between using “slave” and “enslaved person.” Using enslaved is a subtle way of affirming that slavery was forced upon that person, rather than being an inherent condition. Historians make the distinction to use the world enslaved person since it reinforces that these men and women are humans first and commodities second.
Slave Tours in Africa
1. “Point Of No Return” – Badagry, Nigeria
- Location: 3 hours from Lagos
- Cost: $20 for a tour (price is negotiable)
- Duration: 2 to 3 hours
- Sites could be better maintained
I am starting this list, with my personal experience visiting Badagry in Nigeria.
As a Black American, I assume I have roots in West Africa, but because of slavery, my ancestry is unknown. If the enslaved were able to keep their given names, then it would be easier to trace my history. Visiting West Africa for the first time was special since I believe my roots are from here.
Once in Nigeria, I made sure to visit Badagry, a major slave port outside of Lagos. Unfortunately, since there is not a lot of tourism, there is little money to preserve the sites and create informative museums/memorials. Nonetheless, I eagerly drove 3 hours to reach Badagry to go on a slave tour. It was an enlightening experience that I personally connected to.
The first stop was the Barracks Museum, home to Sereki William Abass, a former enslaved person who gained freedom and became a slave merchant for his owner. He facilitated bringing the enslaved from Badagry to Brazil. The museum showcased the tiny rooms where the enslaved were stored for months.
Two fascinating things to point out:
- Sereki Abass seemed to be celebrated here, with a massive gravestone in the middle of the museum. I was confused about why a man that profited from slavery would be honored.
- Abass’ descendants (he had 144 kids!!) live on the site. It was unique to visit a historical place with a dark history and have families housed there.
- I never knew how involved Africans were in the Slave trade as oppressors.
The next two stops were one-room museums. One of the most memorable artifacts was a chain that was pierced through lips to keep slaves mouths shut. I picked up one of the chains, and it was heavier than expected. The guide asked if I wanted to put the chain around my neck, but I immediately said no, because it seemed inappropriate.
The last stop was taking a boat and walking down the “Path of No Return,” which is where slaves would march to board the ship to go across the Atlantic. Walking down this path, they would have no idea where they would end up. I had an eerie feeling walking down this path, and wondered if my ancestors were forced to march down this path hundreds of years ago. By the time I reached the water, I had taken a moment to reflect and honor the past.
Badagry is not a popular tourist attraction, so it was special and extremely somber to experience walking down the path with only myself and the guide.
2. Slave Market – Zanzibar, Tanzania
- Location: Stonetown, Zanzibar
- Cost: $5
- Duration: 1 hour
- Find a guide at the entrance. The guide is free, but give him a tip at the end.
Zanzibar is a popular tourist destination, and one of my favorite places in the world. One of the reasons I love Zanzibar is because they are open about their dark history. The slave museum in Stonetown does a great job explaining the importance and history of the East African slave trade in Zanzibar. It also exhibits how modern slavery still exists, which gives me chills. I appreciated the educational opportunity because growing up, I only learned about the enslaved persons shipped to the Americas and did not realize many enslaved persons were sent to Arab countries as well. The Zanzibar Slave Market in Stonetown was one of the last legally operated slave market in the world.
The most memorable part of this museum was the room where the enslaved were stored before they were auctioned. This room would be filled with 50 men chained together for up to 3 days. I’m only 5’3,” and my head touched the ceiling of this room. I’m also standing where the “bathroom” was. I only stayed in this room for 3 minutes and was complaining about how hot it was and how I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t fathom how 50 men could fit in this space. The enslaved were put in these extreme conditions so that only the strong would survive. The ones who survived were good enough to be sold.
.Interested in traveling to Tanzania? Read about my experience spending two nights at a Maasai village homestay.
3. Elina Slave Castle – Ghana
- Location: Cape Coast, Ghana
- Cost: $10
- Duration: 1.5 hours
- Well preserved and excellent tours!
One of the most haunting things about touring Elmina is the dungeons where women were held because there is still a stench of blood and death hundreds of years later. Many of these women were raped regularly, and if they fought back, they would be chained to a cannonball and left in the sun. Enslaved Africans were held in shackles under dehumanizing conditions for months before being shipped to the “New World,” while Europeans stayed in spacious rooms above the slave chambers with a view overlooking the ocean.
You can do a day trip from Accra to the Cape Coast, since it is about 3 hours away from the capital.
If you are interested in learning more about the Cape Coast in Ghana, I recommend reading Homegirl. This novel chronicles the stories of two sisters, one who is the wife of a British govern, and who is enslaved in the female dungeon on the Cape Coast.
4. Gorée Island – Senegal
- Location: Dakar, Senegal
- Cost: $100+ for a guided tour from Dakar
- Duration: Half a day
- Well preserved and organized tours
Gorée Island, close to Dakar, is a tiny island that is arguably the most-known slave-trading center in Africa. (Other ports were bigger, but this is one of the most preserved sites). Many high profile guests have visited Gorée island, including the Obamas, Nelson Mandela, and The Pope. There are several notable sites, yet the House of Slaves, where millions of enslaved Africans were kept, is the main attraction. It is estimated that over 400 years of slavery, 600 million Africans died in Gorées slave houses. Some disturbing facts learned from the tour were that if an enslaved African was unlikely to be sold, then he or she was thrown in the ocean. Also, virgin women and heavy men were the most profitable.
“In 2015, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience announced that it would oversee a revitalization of the museum. This support will ensure that the historic slave house realizes its potential to serve as a repository of knowledge on the transatlantic slave trade and a catalyst for dialogue on memory and key issues that confront humanity today.” – Sites of Conscience
To arrive to Gorée island you can take a 20 minute ferry from Dakar. Once in Gorée you can find a guide for the House of Slaves.
4. Bimbia – Cameroon
Historians estimate that 10% of enslaved Africans left from the Bimbia slave port. The rich history in Bimbia, Cameroon has not translated to proper management of the enslaved site. Few tourists come here since there has been no investment to make Bimbia into a memorial, and the sites are buried in the forest. Yet, there are local guides who can share the unrevised history, and there is a push to have Bimbia recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Slave Tours in the Caribbean
5. Anse Cafard Slave Memorial – Martinique
- Location: Diamond Beach, Martinique
- Cost: Free
- Duration: < 1 hour
- A popular tourist attraction
One of the most moving slave sites is the Anse Cafard Slave Memorial in Martinique. The memorial comprises of 15 white statues standing 8 feet tall, silently facing Diamond Beach to commemorate the 1830 sunken ship illegally carrying a “cargo” of enslaved Africans to Martinique. More than 40 Africans shackled together in the ship’s hull drowned. In 1815 it became illegal to import enslaved people, yet Europeans continued to kidnap and illegally sell enslaved persons. These people died so that others could profit.
This memorial has no barriers, so you can get up and personal to the statues , which brings about raw emotion
6. Kura Hulanda Museum, Curacao
- Location: Willemstad, Curacao
- Cost: $10
- Duration: 1 – 2 hours
- Shares history that is not taught
The Kura Hulanda Museum might not be on everyone’s list when visiting Curacao, but it provides a great source of knowledge of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Previous tourists comment that this museum gives much MORE insight than what is taught in American schools. One of the most haunting artifacts is the recreation of the hull of an enslaved ship.
Slave Tours in the United States
7. Mitchelville, South Carolina
- Location: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
- Cost: Free self-guided tour or group tours ($10 per person)
- Duration: < 1 hour
Have you ever heard of Mitchelville? My parents live right outside of Hilton Head Island, and I only just recently found out that Mitchelville was the first self-governed town of freed Africans in the States. Mitchelville Freedom Park (MPP) is a non-profit organization that educates and preserves the history of the Mitchelville settlement. If you visit the park, you can find exhibits, signature events, and guided tours of Historic Mitchelville and learn about Gullah culture.
8. Whitney Plantation, Louisiana
Thanks to Samantha Burmeister for sharing her experience visiting the Whitney Plantation. I have never been, so the details in this section are contributed by the 9 to 5 Nomad.
- Location: Wallace, Louisiana (About 45 minutes from New Orleans)
- Cost: $25 for adults, $23 for students and seniors, $11 for children
- Duration: 1 hour
- Tours happen on the hour from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. It is recommended that you make an advanced booking. When you arrive, notify the gift shop. They will direct you to the tour’s meeting spot on the back patio.
- Located on the Mississippi River at 5099 Highway 18, Wallace, LA 70049
Of over 10,000 museums in the United States, the Whitney Plantation is the only one dedicated to telling history from the perspective of enslaved people.
When you arrive at the Whitney Plantation and sign in for your tour, you are given a lanyard with a card on it. When I got mine, I was told that I’d be able to follow this person’s story throughout the tour of the Whitney Plantation. My card had a photo of a statue of a little girl and some notes on her life. As I waited for the tour to start, I read my card and was immediately connected to the story of the slaves that lived on the land.
The whole tour was like this – striking, honest, and deeply personal.
While many plantation tours throughout the south tell the same story (tour of the big home led by someone in a period costume, followed by free reign on the properties) the tour guides at the Whitney Plantation were modern and well-versed in both the past of the Whitney Plantation and slavery in America.
Some of the highlights include:
- The freeman’s church, which includes an art installation of 22 statues of former slaves of the Whitney Plantation. There are 18 more similar statues around the property, but these 22 bronze statues are meant to symbolize the 2,200 children who died on the plantation and in surrounding areas before slavery was abolished.
- Restored slaves quarters – shacks that many families or people would inhabit at a time.
- The plantation home and it’s outdoor kitchen – the oldest standing kitchen in Louisiana
- Several memorials with quotes, names, and more. This is the part that moved me to tears as they describe, in enslaved peoples’ words, what they endured as part of the slave trade. The Whitney Plantation does not sugar coat the experience of enslaved people.
While the sights at the plantation were well-preserved and cared for, it was the tour guide that made the whole thing worth it. Our guide was knowledgeable and honest – I can confidently say that I learned more about the realities of slavery and it’s lasting effects in my hour tour than I did in my entire schooling.
9. Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, Georgia
If you know a slave tour, memorial, or site that I should add to this guide, leave a comment.
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