Located in the Sierra Leone River, a few miles north of Freetown, Bunce Island was home to one of the most lucrative slave trading operations in West Africa. Between the late sixteenth century and 1807, when it was outlawed by the British government, hundreds of thousands of West Africans became victims of the slave trade. From Bunce Island, the furthest point upriver that was accessible to commercial ships, slaves were sold to colonies in the West Indies and North America. The rice-growing skills of Africans from the west coast commanded high prices from rice plantation owners in North America. In recent years, studies have revealed clear connections between the linguistic traits and cultural traditions of the Gullah people in the U.S. states of Georgia and South Carolina and the people of Sierra Leone.
As was also the case at other sites in West Africa, European companies erected a fortified trading post with ancillary buildings, referred to as a slave castle, on the uninhabited Bunce Island. The structures that remain, including bastions, walls of the merchants’ quarters, the gunpowder magazine, and the gate to the slave house, were constructed of local stones and imported brick. Although the isolation of the island has helped prevent much human destruction, the severe local climate has resulted in ongoing degradation from the elements. Uncontrolled growth of vegetation in and around the ruins and coastal erosion threaten the preservation of the site. Additionally, conflict and a weak economy that is still recovering from the effects of the 2014 Ebola epidemic have hampered many plans for the preservation of Bunce Island. https://www.wmf.org/project/bunce-island