Reporter reflects on Obama’s emotional visit — and her own — to African slave site

Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
Reporter reflects on Obama’s emotional visit — and her own — to African slave site

Politics Confidential

In a emotional visit to Senegal’s Goree Island, President Obama stood at the threshold of the “Door of No Return,” the place that’s come to symbolize the journey of millions of African slaves, who were bound, shackled and sent to America and other foreign lands.

American Urban Radio’s April Ryan, herself a descendent of slaves, has now visited Goree Island with three U.S. presidents, including Obama. She told Politics Confidential she gets goose bumps talking about the significance of the first African-American president’s visit to the “Door of No Return” at the historic slave house.

“Now you have an African-American president, a true African-American president, a son of a man born in Kenya, who does not necessarily have a direct link to slavery, and he will walk through that door,” Ryan told Politics Confidential aboard a ferry bound for Goree Island.

“He's come home, he's come home,” Ryan said. “And when I say he's come home, he, like myself, is a child of the motherland.”

Ryan reflected on what life must have been like for the slaves, describing the cramped conditions slaves were held in on Goree Island.

“When you walk through that slave house, you see the small rooms; you wonder how someone could do that to another human being, and the number of people crammed into those rooms,” Ryan said. “And to imagine, this was the last step that took them at least six months across the sea to where they became slaves.”

As a descendent of slaves, Ryan said she couldn’t help but feel emotional as the ferry approached the shores of Goree Island.

“I'm five generations removed from the last known slave in my family, and he was sold on the auction block in Fayetteville, North Carolina,” Ryan said. “So, it is poignant. I mean as a reporter, we are reporters, but sometimes the human experience comes in.”

For more of the interview with Ryan, including her recollections of her previous trips to the island while covering President Clinton and President George W. Bush, check out this episode of Politics Confidential.

ABC's Stephanie Smith, Mary Bruce, Michael Conte, Ginny Vicario, and John Glennon contributed to this episode.