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Washington, D.C., May 16th, 2012: In recognition of his role in documenting the historical link between the Gullah people in the United States of America and Sierra Leone, and for his outstanding contribution in preserving Sierra Leone’s Slave Trading port of ‘Bunce Island’ as a heritage site, the esteemed Historian and Anthropologist, Professor Joseph Opala (in photo) was awarded the Order of the Rokel by the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Professor Opala received his award during the 2012 National Honors, Insignia and Awards Ceremony held on Independence Day, April 27th, in Freetown. The citation honoring him reads:
Professor Joseph Opala, in recognition of his pioneering role in documenting the historical link between the Gullah people in the United States of America and Sierra Leone, and his outstanding contribution to preserving Bunce Island’
Joseph Opala’s long and notable career of research on the Atlantic slave trade in Sierra Leone contributed to drawing significant interest on the subject, particularly the direct historical connection between the Gullah people of South Carolina and the people of Sierra Leone. His work has resulted in documentary films, museum exhibits, public lectures, etc. explaining the historical and family ties as well as the cultural and linguistic connections between Sierra Leone and the Gullahs. Among his notable achievements, Mr. Opala in 1989 helped organize the African-American homecoming to Sierra Leone dubbed ‘the Gullah Homecoming.’
Professor Opala has been working with his group and their partner organization, the Bunce Island Coalition (SL), on a five-year project to preserve the ruins of the historic slave fortress in Bunce Island off the shores of Sierra Leone.
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