Navigating Nigeria’s Slave Route: The Lament of Lagos

By: Maximillian Grob

February 20, 2015

Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos is both a global capital and a West African cultural hub, thanks to its electric nightlife, thriving film industry, and diverse population. But today, Lagos’s rich present stands in stark contrast to its tragic history, when it was once a primary stop on the Nigerian slave route.

At the dawn of the 16th century, Lagos was a major trading post, and slave merchants used the port city to assist in the selling, trading and exporting of slaves to the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean. Whilst the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833, slavery was, incredibly, not outlawed in southern Nigeria until 1916 and across the rest of the country until 1936.

Navigating Nigeria's Slave Route | The Lament of Lagos
Rendering depicting slave auction ©

Badagry, a coastal town about an hour’s drive from the city centre, was particularly infamous for its slave market. Founded in 1425, it’s a frequently visited stop among history buffs, and today has done much to preserve its important cultural heritage. Museums, landmarks, and other sights educate and enlighten travellers about the horrors of the era – and facilitate the healing process in the present day.

Badagry Heritage Museum

Navigating Nigeria's Slave Route | The Lament of Lagos
Badagry Slave Route sign © Chris Grossman/Flickr

The Badagry Heritage Museum is one of the region’s key historic landmarks. The museum houses a wealth of artefacts that demonstrate the unthinkable treatment endured by African slaves during the era. Rusty, decrepit drinking pots and shackles are among the displayed objects, along with mouthpieces and replicas of the ships used to transport the slaves overseas, a journey that many did not survive. The building itself is another key historic site, as it was originally the first administrative office in Nigeria.

The Brazilian Barracoon

Navigating Nigeria's Slave Route | The Lament of Lagos
Salve cell in Badagry © Chris Grossman/Flickr

Though much of the architecture that dates back to the era has not survived into the present day, there are still glimpses of this time period to be seen. The Brazilian Barracoon – a temporary prison used to house slaves before being sold – is one such example. Today, the barracoon is filled with artefacts, and stands as a powerful and sobering reminder of the terrible events that occurred here.

The Point of No Return

Navigating Nigeria's Slave Route | The Lament of Lagos
Badagry Slave Port – The Point of No Return © Chris Grossman/Flickr

Perhaps the most chilling of all the landmarks in Badagry is the Point of No Return. This jetty on the edge of the marina marks the place from which slaves last beheld their homeland before being shipped overseas. To stand at the edge is to feel part of a palpable lesson in history that is instrumental to understanding the region’s past.

Badagry additionally offers more for visitors to see, including several other examples of historic architecture, memorials, and other landmarks related to the slave trade.

Virgin Atlantic operates daily direct flights to Lagos from London Heathrow.

Have you been to Badagry? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.


Maximillian Grob

A spontaneous traveller, Maximillian has a typewriter but never uses it. After spending a few years in Japan, he can now be spotted writing in cafes, airport lounges and occasionally London offices.

Categories: Our Places