Actor Isaiah Washington has donated $25,000 to the computer reconstruction project of Bunce Island, an 18th century slave-trading castle in the Republic of Sierra Leone. Bunce Island–once the largest British slave castle on the Rice Coast of West Africa–exported tens of thousands of African captives to North America, particularly the colonies of South Carolina and Georgia.

According to Washington, who learned of his own ancestral connection to Sierra Leone through DNA testing, “The stories of innumerable Sierra Leoneans that were forced into slavery have yet to be extensively told. I believe this project will begin to shed some much needed light on the region, both past and present.” Washington’s donation to the Bunce Island project–made through his foundation, The Gondobay Manga Foundation, and channeled through the Friends of Sierra Leone organization–is part of the actor’s work to bolster the efforts of the Sierra Leone government to secure international assistance for the preservation of the castle.

Describing the importance of the Bunce Island computer reconstruction, one of the project’s founders, James Madison University (JMU) professor of history, Joseph Opala stated that “Unlike the Jewish holocaust and other terrible crimes of the modern era, the Atlantic slave trade took place before the advent of photography, and thus we can only imagine its horrors. Our computer animation project will allow us to go beyond the imagination, and actually see how the Atlantic slave trade was carried out.”

At the helm of the Bunce Island computer reconstruction project are JMU professors Joseph Opala and Gary Chatelain. Part of a study that Opala began in the 1970s, the Bunce Island project is based on 18th century documents and drawings, as well as Opala and other experts’ archeological studies. Chatelain, a specialist in art and art history, is using his expertise in interior design and computer modeling to fill the rooms of the virtual castle with period furniture and slave trade cargo. The finalized product will present an unprecedented view of the historic castle as it appeared in the year 1805. Eventually, Opala and Chatelain hope to create an educational CD that will allow students to virtually explore the slave castle and see what Africans endured during their forced migration 250 years ago.

In May 2007, Washington plans to host a group of African American celebrities, whose DNA tests also point to Sierra Leone, to the Bunce Island slave castle.

For more information about The Gondobay Manga Foundation, please visit For information about Friends of Sierra Leone, please visit

More about Isaiah Washington:
The award-winning actor presently stars in the hit ABC series, Grey’s Anatomy. Aside from appearing in over 30 films including Spike Lee’s Crooklyn (1994), Warren Beatty’s Bulworth (1998) and Clint Eastwood’s True Crime (1999), Washington has also appeared on many popular TV series, including Ally McBeal, Law and Order, and Touched By An Angel.

Following his trip to Sierra Leone in 2006, Washington created a non-profit organization, The Gondobay Manga Foundation; Gondobay Manga being the name that the Mende people of Ngalu Bagbwe Chiefdom bestowed on Washington when he was inducted as a tribal chief. The organization is aimed at improving the lives of ordinary Sierra Leoneans.

For more information about Isaiah Washington, please visit

Howard Bragman
Fifteen Minutes, (323) 556-9700

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