Saturday, Jun 29 2013 3PM 68°F 6PM 68°F 5-Day Forecast
Historians claim Obama's 'Door of No Return' which he visited to highlight the evils of slavery is a 'scam' and was actually used as a garbage dump
- President Obama and his family visited Goree Island outside of Dakar
- Historians doubt the role of the island in the slave trade
- University of Chicago professor said: There are literally no historians who believe the Slave House is what they're claiming it to be'
- Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and former U.S presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush have also visited the island
PUBLISHED: 22:37 EST, 28 June 2013 | UPDATED: 22:58 EST, 28 June 2013
When President Barack Obama visited the 'Door of No Return' on a Senegalese island on Thursday, he believed he was looking at where Africans were shipped across the Atlantic into slavery. But not all may be as it first seemed.
Historians claim that the entrance of Slave House on Goree Island where Obama posed for a photo opportunity was most likely only used for disposing of garbage.
As reported by the Telegraph, Professor Ralph Austen of the University of Chicago said: 'There are literally no historians who believe the Slave House is what they're claiming it to be, or that believe Goree was statistically significant in terms of the slave trade,'
Dubious: The 'Door Of No Return' might actually have been used as a garbage dump rather than a loading base for the slave trade
Facing history: President Obama took a tour of Goree Island outside of Dakar, Senegal where slaves used to be depart on boats bound for America in the late 18th century
Historians point out that the Atlantic Ocean at Goree Island is both shallow and rocky, which would have made it difficult for a slave ship to load its grim cargo at that point.
The role of the island in the slave trade has long been disputed, though it has become an important symbol and emotional reminder of the horrific events of the past.
The Telegraph reports that many scholars now believe that people were kept at this fort, they might have been used by residents of the island rather than for mass transportation to the Americas.
Many think that other locations in West Africa, like Ghana, have stronger claims to being huge staging posts for the slave trade.
In the 1990s, Philip Curtin, an emeritus professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of two dozen books on the Atlantic slave trade, became one of the first scholars to question the authenticity of the Slave House.
Touring: President Obama was accompanied to Goree Island by his wife Michelle, their eldest daughter Malia, Michelle's mother Marian Robinson and their niece Leslie
In a discussion on an online forum for historians, he said he believed the 'hoax' was perpetrated by the charismatic Joseph Ndiaye.
Ndiaye was the museum's first curator, and he ushered generations of visitors through the house, recounting the alleged horrors perpetrated there with theatrical pomp.
Ndiaye initially claimed that 20 million had passed through the house, upping it to 40 million by the time Curtin visited in 1992, four times the total figure of slaves exported from Africa overall.
'A lot of people have been taken in by the Goree scam,' Curtin wrote. 'Though Goree is a picturesque place, it was marginal to the slave trade.'
From 1501 to 1866, an estimated 12 million slaves from Africa were sent to North America, according to a database created by scholars using shipping records and plantation registers.
Of these, only 33,000 came from Goree Island, an insignificant portion of the overall total, the database shows.
Yet the plaques which grace the stone walls of the Slave House speak of the 'millions' of slaves that passed through its halls.
Obama peered out at the crashing waves through the island's 'Door of No Return,' at first by himself
Big step: Mrs Obama joined him at the poignant doorway, and he said that the visit helped remind them of the importance of protecting civil rights
Meaningful: Though the Maison des Esclaves has become a popular tourist destination, it was one of the more minor slave shipping ports in Senegal
The debate over the house's place in history has become emotionally charged and politically treacherous in Senegal, due to the high-profile role the museum plays in attracting tourists to the island, including celebrity visitors like Obama, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and former U.S presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush.
On Thursday Obama described the visit as a 'very powerful moment.' and that going to the site with his family helped them fully appreciate the magnitude of the slave trade.
Obama also said that, as an African American and an African-American president, the trip gaves him even greater motivation to stand up for human rights around the world, and the visit came just hours after he clashed with his Senegalese hosts over gay rights.
He said the island is a reminder of what happens when civil rights are not protected.
Fatal doorway: When slaves try to escape by jumping from the walkway set up between the doorway and the awaiting ships, they would be eaten alive by sharks who swam around the island expecting the bodies of unhealthy slaves
Close hold: Mrs Obama gives Malia a hug during a tour of the island alongside her mother Mrs Robinson, who lives with the family in the White House