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The Story of Kunta Kinte in The Gambia

by Jack Guy

Jul 30, 2020

© Thomas Jurkowski | Dreamstime.com

Trends / History

Kunta Kinte is a famous historical figure from The Gambia, known as the slave that fought back.


The Gambia played a huge role in the West African slave trade, and one island at the mouth of the Gambia River was particularly important. Previously known as James Island, this tiny piece of land was used as a holding ground for slaves before they were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean.


It has since been renamed Kunta Kinte island after a rebellious slave that some claim is real, and others say is a work of fiction. Kunta Kinte is the main character in the novel Roots by Alex Haley, and Haley said he is based on a real person. The writer also claims to be a descendant of Kinte, who gained notoriety by refusing to submit to the slaveowner that bought him.


While experts disputed Haley’s claims, locals in The Gambia maintain Kinte was a real man. His story was also made into a popular TV series, and visitors to The Gambia can go on a Roots tour to see the island and other local sites. Whether or not you are convinced by the historical accuracy of the story, it’s well worth visiting the area to see one of the key places in a dark period of human history.


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