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Last Updated: Thursday March 15 2007 11:25 GMT

Angellica digs up her slave roots

Angellica Bell

Angellica Bell thought researching family history was for geeks - until she started filming for a new CBBC programme and found out her family used to be slaves.

She told Newsround about the incredible personal journey she took while filming a new show - Angellica: Time Traveller - which will run on BBC1 on Monday 26 March at 5pm.


Tell us about the programme

The TV show is the story of me tracing my family history and travelling on the route that the old slave trade ships would have taken. That's starting in England, going to Africa, then on to the Caribbean. It was an amazing trip.

What did you know about your family at the start?

Angellica with kids
I only knew my immediate family, like my mum, dad, gran and granddad as I grew up in West London and most of my family were in St Lucia in the Caribbean.

I remember my mum taping my gran and granddad telling stories of life on St Lucia, but the tape got lost!

I thought family history was a bit nerdy, but when my dad died last year I suddenly wished I had found out more about his family from him. When he died it felt like I had lost so much family information and that felt really sad.

How did you trace your slavery past?

I had to swab my mouth 20 times on each side and this was then analysed and the results said that most likely my family were originally from Senegal in West Africa.

I never thought of myself as anything but coming from the Caribbean! This programme made me realise that I was so short-sighted in my thinking.

I didn't know anything about Senegal, apart from they had a quite good football team!

Where did you start your journey?

We started in Bristol, which is a city I love and have visited loads of times but going back and recreating what it was like during the slave trade made me see it really differently. It was a really good experience and the start of a really interesting journey.

What was it like going to Senegal?

It was really odd. I have been to Africa before but this time I was seeing it through different eyes. I was thinking about a different life that could have been associated with me.

I found out all about the national dress and their way of life and it all made me think a lot about my family's past.

Going to Goree Island, where the slaves were kept to be shipped, was a real eye-opener.

When you see it with your own eyes you realise that the people who were taken as slaves went through so much. At that time it was thought that being black meant you were a lesser person.

I really thought about it and thought about my colour. I've always been proud to be black and it made me sad to think back to those days.

And then what was it like going to St Lucia?

Angellica on the boat to Goree Island
One of the nicest things was when we were filming and a man came up and said he had known my dad and told me all these stories, which was really lovely.

I went to the records office and found out that my great grandfather's mum was a slave who worked in a plantation.

What has it meant to you to find out more about your family?

I thought tracing your family tree was for nerds, but it has made me feel stronger about myself. It's important to know who you are so if you are being bullied or people don't understand your culture if you know about it then you will be stronger.



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