Boubacar Joseph NdiayeThis is a tip of the hat to Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye, the long-time curator of the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) in Senegal, who has passed away in Dakar at the age of 86.

Ndiaye, who as a French colonial fought for France in WWII, devoted the last forty years of his life to preserving the memory of the slave trade on Gorée Island.

Hamady Bocoum, director of cultural heritage in Senegal’s culture ministry, said of Ndiaye:

He was the main architect of the defence of the memory of the Atlantic slave trade, the man most fervent and unrelenting against any revisionism.

According to Agence France-Presse, Ndiaye would often say that he intended to speak about the history of the slave trade “all my life.”

His visitors included Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, and Bill Clinton, who famously expressed regret for American participation in the slave trade while visiting Gorée Island.

Traces of the Trade carries the message that the North was far more implicated in slavery, even in southern slavery, than we are commonly led to understand.

In this vein, Professor Steven Hahn, of the University of Pennsylvania, argues that for fugitive slaves in the 19th century, there was little distinction between the slave-owning South and the more progressive North, to the point where “the border itself was illusory.”

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