Sunday Spotlight: Goree Island

Jonathan Karl on the history and symbolism of one of West Africa's departure points to slavery.
3:21 | 07/07/13

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Transcript for Sunday Spotlight: Goree Island
Now our "sunday spotlight" shining on senegal's goree island, one of president obama's most emotional stops on his visit to africa this week. Just a short ferry ride from the senegal capital lied goree island. The history belies the colonial charm. For africans, it's the center of three centuries of brutal slave trading on the west coast of africa. White house reporter april ryan came here with three different u.S. Presidents. What does this mean to you? Your third time back here. I'm not that far removed with my family. He was sold on the auction block in north carolina. As we are talking, I'm getting goosebumps. A LONG LIST OF VIPs HAVE MADE Pilgrimages here, among them, president clint, president bush and president barack obama. And pope john paul ii, and nelson mandela. When nelson mandela came here, he insisted on coming here, one of the small cells that was used to punish slaves accused of misbehaving. When he emerged, he had tears in his eyes. But the island is mired in controversy. Locals have claimed millions of slaves bound in chains were shipped from here to the new world. However, archaeological studies have cast doubt on that, and they say it was never a major departure point for slave ships. The biggest landmark is the house of slaves. President obama peered out the back door, across the ocean. The slave ships travelled from west africa to the new world. Historians differ about what has happened at the door of no return. But it's come to symbolize the last step that millions of africans made as they left for slavery in strange land beyond the ocean. Even the curator acknowledges it may have been exaggerated. It doesn't matter how many slaves came through that door. 2,000 or 2 million slaves, it's the same exactly in terms of principle. And that is why american presidents have come here to mark the darkest chapter of american history. America struggled to overcome slavery and its legacy, it forms one of the most difficult chapters of the history. My nation's journey toward justice has not been easy and it is not over. We have to remain vigilant when it comes to the defense of people's human rights. This is a testament to when we're not vigilant in the defense of what's right, what can happen. Now we honor our fellow americans who serve and sacrifice. This week, the pentagon released the names of three soldiers killed in afghanistan. That's all for us today, thank you for sharing part of your sunday with us. Check out "world news" with david muir tonight from san

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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