Door of No Return: Yellen visits a former slave trading post

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GOREE ISLAND, Senegal (AP) – US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen paid a solemn visit on Saturday to the salmon-colored house on an island off Senegal this is one of the most recognizable symbols of the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade, which held tens of millions of Africans in captivity for generations.

Yellen, Senegal as part of a 10-day trip with the aim of rebuilding economic relations between the US and Africa, he stayed in the building on Gorée Island, known as the House of Slaves, and spied through the “Door of No Return”, from which slaves were shipped across the Atlantic.

She was led on a tour of the house’s various corridors and cramped rooms, shaking her head in disgust at what she was told about the economics of how slaves were valued.

“Gorée and the transatlantic slave trade are not just part of African history. They are also part of American history,” Yellen later said in brief remarks during her visit.

“We know that the tragedy did not stop with the generation of humans removed from here,” he added. “Even after slavery was abolished, black Americans – many of whom can trace their descent through ports like this across Africa – have been denied the rights and freedoms promised to them under our Constitution.”

Later, in an interview With the Associated Press, Yellen said that while promoting diversity and racial equality is a key goal, “the government has not embraced reparations as part of the response.”

The economic benefits that major slave-trading nations, including the United States, reaped for hundreds of years on the back of unpaid labor could run into the tens of trillions of dollars, according to research. in commerce.

And in the United States, African slaves and their children contributed to the building of the country’s most celebrated institutions, including the White House and the Capitol, according to the White House Historical Association.

Yellen acknowledged the ramifications of that brutal past in her public comments.

“Both in Africa and the United States, even with tremendous advances, we are still living with the brutal consequences of the transatlantic slave trade,” she said.

In a guestbook in the house, she wrote that it served as “an important reminder that the histories of Africa and America are intimately connected. While I suffer from its past, I’m also excited by the vibrant community I’ve seen here. I take from this place the importance of redoubling our commitment to fight for our shared principles and values ​​of freedom and human rights wherever they are threatened – in Africa, in the United States and around the world.”

Yellen’s trip to the island has been taken by many dignitaries, including former President Barack Obama. and Bill Clinton and South African Nelson Mandela. Today, Gorée Island is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Yellen’s stop there during a trip aimed at revitalizing US-African economic relations is one that has evoked the massive costs of the slave trade. There was a resurgence of interest in determining the true cost of slavery on the generations affected.

In recent years, the House Financial Services Committee has studied how US banks and insurance companies have profited of the practice of slavery before its prohibition in 1865. There were also hearings on the study and development of proposals for redress in the United States.

In the AP interview, Yellen said the government was “working in various ways in communities of color and low-income communities to try to bring in more capital for early loans and other things,” she said. “It is an extremely important goal.”

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