President Barack Obama and his family toured the historic slave-trading outpost at Goree Island during their Senegal visit Thursday. The president talked about how powerful the visit was for him as an individual and as an African-American president.
First Lady Michelle Obama joined the president on his tour of the the UNESCO World Heritage site, along with daughter Malia, mother-in-law Marian Robinson and a cousin.
During his tour of the island, the president visited the House of Slaves and stood at what’s known as the Door of No Return, the doorway through which tens of thousands of Africans walked before boarding ships bound for America to live a life in bondage, according to UNESCO. The president paused at that site and reflected for a moment, staring out at the ocean, before continuing his tour.
Read Obama’s full remarks to reporters on his visit to Goree Island:
I want to thank the President of Senegal, but also the Mayor of Gorée and the museum curator here. Obviously, it’s a very powerful moment whenever I can travel with my family, but especially for Michelle and Malia and my mother-in-law to be able to come here and to fully appreciate the magnitude of the slave trade, to get a sense in a very intimate way of the incredible inhumanity and hardship that people faced before they made the Middle Passage and that crossing.
And I think more than anything what it reminds us of is that we have to remain vigilant when it comes to the defense of people’s human rights–because I’m a firm believer that humanity is fundamentally good, but it’s only good when good people stand up for what’s right. And this is a testament to when we’re not vigilant in defense of what’s right, what can happen.
And so it’s always powerful for me to visit countries outside of the United States generally, but obviously for an African-American, and an African-American President to be able to visit this site I think gives me even greater motivation in terms of the defense of human rights around the world.