This Island Became Their Last Sight Of Home

Detail of Door of No Return
Shonda Buchanan
October 7, 2020

Still vomiting from the rough waves, he spilled from the rowboat onto the rocky shore. He and his family were hostages of war, sold by their enemies to the Portuguese. Grieving and terrified, they’d arrived at the “House of Slaves” on Gorée Island, Senegal.

And their nightmare had just begun.

Women, children, and men were ripped away from each other and shoved into dirt-floor rooms. He tried to fight back – but they shoved him into a putrid, closet-like room with other mutinous warriors, until their mangled bodies broke or they died from suffocation. 

Then the screaming, and praying, in countless African languages began.

When their time came, he and hundreds of others were chained again and led through “La Porte du Non-Retour:” The Door of No Return.

A towering ship awaited them. He stole a glimpse behind him – the last time he’d ever see Africa.

Layered like sardines in the ship, he’d also never again see his family. During the journey, he gave comfort to fellow Africans and shared his measly food, up until they led him off the boat in chains to the auction block.

That we are still here, beyond this tragic history, is a testament to our ancestors’ perseverance, self-respect, and faith in their Gods. While we draw strength from them, we are more than our enslavement past.

How are you making your ancestors proud?

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