GOREE ISLAND, Senegal (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen paid a solemn visit Saturday to the salmon-colored house on an island off Senegal that is one of the most recognized symbols of the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade that enslaved tens of millions of Africans for generations .
Yellen, in Senegal as part of a 10-day trip aimed at rebuilding economic relations between the United States and Africa, stood in the Gorée Island building known as the Slave House and peered out the Door of No Return, from which slaves were transported across the Atlantic.
“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 the visit.
“We know that the tragedy did not stop with the generation of people taken from here. Even after slavery was abolished, black Americans – many of whom can trace their descendants through ports like this across Africa – were denied the rights and freedoms promised to them under our Constitution .”
The economic benefits that major slave-trading nations, including the United States, reaped for hundreds of years on the backs of unpaid labor could amount to tens of trillions of dollars, according to research on the trade.
And in the United States, African slaves and their children contributed to the construction of the nation’s most famous institutions, including the White House and the Capitol, according to the White House Historical Association.
Yellen acknowledged the ongoing consequences of the brutal past.
“In both Africa and the United States, although we have made tremendous progress, we are still living with the brutal consequences of the transatlantic slave trade,” she said.
“What I take from this place is the importance of redoubling our commitment to fight 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 trip to the island is one that many dignitaries have taken, including former US presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. Today, Gorée Island is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yellen’s stop there during a trip intended to revitalize US-African economic relations is one that evoked the enormous costs of the slave trade. There has been 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 American banks and insurance companies profited from the practice of slavery before it was banned in 1865. There have also been hearings on the study and development of compensation proposals in the United States