GOREE ISLAND, Senegal (TBEN) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen paid a solemn visit on Saturday to the salmon-colored home on an island off the coast of Senegal that is one of the most recognized symbols of the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade that has engulfed dozens of people. enslaved millions of Africans for generations.
Yellen, in Senegal as part of a 10-day trip aimed at restoring economic relations between the US and Africa, stood in the Gorée Island building known as the House of Slaves, peering out of the “Door of No Return “, from which enslaved people were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean.
“Gorée and the transatlantic slave trade are not just part of African history. They are also part of American history,” Yellen said in brief remarks during her visit.
“We know that the tragedy didn’t stop when the generation of people was taken away from here. Even after slavery was abolished, Black Americans—many of whom can trace their lineage through ports like this across Africa—were denied the rights and freedoms they were promised under our Constitution.”
The economic benefits that major slave-trading nations, including the United States, have reaped for hundreds of years on the backs of unpaid labor could amount to tens of trillions of dollars, according to research into the trade.
And in the US, African slaves and their children helped build the country’s most storied institutions, including the White House and the Capitol, according to the White House Historical Association.
Yellen acknowledged the ongoing consequences of that cruel past.
“In both Africa and the United States, even though we have made tremendous progress, we are still living with the brutal consequences of the transatlantic slave trade,” she said.
“What I take away from this is the importance of redoubled our commitment to fighting for our shared values and principles wherever they are threatened — in the United States, in Africa and around the world,” she said. “We have more work to do.”
Yellen’s journey to the island is one many dignitaries have taken, including former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and South African Nelson Mandela. Today, Gorée Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yellen’s stop there on a journey intended to revive American-African economic relations is one that evoked the enormous cost of the slave trade. There is a renewed interest in determining the true cost of slavery to affected generations.
In recent years, the House Financial Services Committee has investigated how U.S. banks and insurance companies profited from the practice of slavery before it was outlawed in 1865. Hearings have also been held on the study and development of reparations proposals in the United States.