In honor of Ghana’s Independence day, I am sharing the experiences I had there in 2009. My life was forever changed by this country of hope, turmoil, and love.
Where can I start? It is with the nagging emotions of grief and disdain that I write this.
Cape Coast castle was the largest castle built for the purpose of importing and exporting slaves. The British established their dominance along the coast and became EXTREMELY wealthy from enslaving the native people. Ironically, as many of you may know from history, religion seemed to be just as important as slavery. A church, adorned with the beloved cross, was even built directly on top of dungeons where slaves were treated worse than animals and piled on top of each other in the cramped and dark room.
Amazingly, the entire castle is still standing. For just a small fee, tourists can walk through the dungeons. Men and women had seperate holding areas. When I walked through the dungeons, I noticed that there was still a slight stench. The darkness was overwhelming. I could not even see my hand in front of my face. The space was tight and cramped. The heat was unbearable.
I simply could not imagine hundreds of people being kept there at one time. Even as people died from starvation, illness, and dehydration,their lifeless bodies were left there among the crowd. Additionally, feces piled up very high like ugly decoration. Prior to the castle opening to the public, we were told that when archaeologists arrived at the castle, feces were higher than knee level. Although archaeologist removed the fecal matter, a permanent line of residue still stains on the walls.
There was also an even smaller room that held “rebellious” slaves. These particular slaves were left there to die from lack of oxygen. However, the “door of no return” was the most moving portion of the tour. I realized that at that point a new kind of terror began. Many would go on to die in route to the Americas or Caribbean Islands. Some would jump overboard in an effort to end their new found terror. Most would never see their families again nor return to their homes.
Slaves were put into canoe boats. The boats would then take them to a larger ship that was further out in the ocean. The chains that bound their feet and hands were very heavy. The one I held was more than 15 pounds. This of course, inhibited their movement and made walking more strenuous. Children also carried the same amount of weight. Slavery did not spare anyone. The Cape Coast shore is very rocky thus, a large ship can not pull close to the castle. This also helped the British defend themselves when they were attacked by Danes, Dutch, and Portuguese explorers. Strategically placed canons are still erect and point toward the sea.The slavery business was lucrative and it seems like several countries wanted an opportunity at increased wealth at the expense of other human beings.
For those born with sunkissed skin, nearly everything that defined them as people was stripped away. I could not even begin to list the atrocities and vicious cruelty directly at them. My ancestors were treated as animals, given foreign diseases, raped, and beaten.
Despite this ugly stain in history, it is important for everyone to know the entire truth about slavery. With this knowledge, it is my hope that the human race never commits this crime again. It is in these moments, that I am not so proud to be an American. Our history, afterall, is tainted by the blood of innocent people. Our wealth was built at the cruel expense of others. We lied in the name of Christanity……Americans were not the only ones guilty of this crime against humanity though. The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, etc were guilty too.
There is no way to seek redemption for what has already occurred. The effects of slavery on Africans and African-Americans still exist today. However, the eradication of ignorance, racism, and discrimination would be a step in the right direction. There has been some change, but trust me…THERE IS A LONG WAY FOR US TO GO.
Thousands of slaves were buried on the grounds of the castle or thrown overboard. Four Europeans are buried on the castle grounds. One includes the wife of an affluent British man who was involved in the slave trade. Historians claim that when she arrived in Ghana to visit her husband and learn of his sexual exploitation of several slaves, she committed suicide by drinking poison.