It took me a while to get this post up, in part because it was a struggle to figure out what to say about the experience of visiting the castles at Cape Coast and Elimina, which were used to hold slaves before shipping out to the new world as part of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Leah wrote a great description of our visit which is included below. The only thing I can think to add now that I look back is that I had a really powerful feeling of empathy for the people that passed suffered in these places hundreds of years ago. It was a humbling experience.
Our tour of the coast of Ghana took us to the old slave castles, one of which Obama visited when he came to Ghana this past summer. Castles is kind of an ironic word as I always think of princes, princesses and overall riches when I hear the term castles, but these white washed castles served a dark purpose for over three hundred years. These large fortresses were built by the Portuguese, Dutch and English and were at the center of slave trading in the Gold Coast region. Once Ghana gained its independence from the British in 1957 these fortresses were finally in the hands of the Ghanaian people and over the past few decades renovations were completed to make these castles accessible to tourist and are now listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From the outside the most striking part of these buildings is the white walls contrasting with the surrounding colorful African city and the blue ocean and sky. This is in stark contrast to the dark insides where we were lead down into the slave dungeons that held hundreds of men and women for months in rooms with minimal light and ventilation and no plumbing facilities to speak of. Slaves were held in these dark, dank rooms until ships carrying guns and liquor arrived which were traded in the courtyard of theses castles for live men and women. The slaves were then taken through the “Door of No Return” and packed on to boats on the way to Europe and the Americas. The riches and development of the western world came from man power taken from this area of Africa. Visiting these castles was a powerful experience and a made us reflect on the injustices of one of the worst crimes ever committed against humanity.