CNN)The island formerly known as James has a dark history.
This speck of land at the mouth of the Gambia river was once a major waypoint of the transatlantic slave trade. African abductees were brutally imprisoned on the island, ahead of being forcibly transported to the US.
“It was the departure point for hundreds of thousands of blacks captured in the Gambia River area from 1588 to 1807,” says historian Hassoum Ceesay, curator of the Gambia National Museum.
The victims included famous rebel Kunta Kinte, who lost a foot resisting the slavers. His story inspired Alex Haley’s 1976 novel “Roots” and the hit TV series of the same name. His legacy has been kept alive in popular culture by artists such as Kendrick Lamar.
Growing public awareness of Kinte’s story and the horrors of slavery has made the island an attraction for tourists and historians.
In 2003, James Island was certified a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a “unique memorial to the Atlantic Slave Trade.” In 2011, James was renamed Kunta Kinteh Island in commemoration of its most famous son.