Door of no return

Trip Start Feb 21, 2010
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Trip End Apr 18, 2010


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Flag of Ghana  ,
Saturday, March 27, 2010

Imagine yourself in the comforts of home surrounded by friends and family. You feel safe, secure and happy busily planning your day and dreaming of your future. Now imagine that your day is interrupted by a group of men with guns and knives that breakdown your door and take you from your house. They put your arms and legs in chains; you are bound to strangers and ordered to start walking down an unfamiliar path. After walking for hours you grow tired but when you try to stop and take a break you're beaten and forced to keep walking. You walk for days on end without food and are only occasionally given water. Your mouth is dry, your feet sore, your head is pounding and you miss your family. You don’t understand what’s happening but you’re too afraid to ask because the person in front of you was murdered for questioning the armed men. From a distance you spot a huge whitewashed castle overlooking a rocky stretch of coast with waves crashing into it. As you get closer you notice a row of canons pointing to the sea and hundreds of boats docked beside it. Once you arrive, you’re split into your gender group and forced down a set of stairs. It starts to get dark and then all of a sudden it’s pitch black. You take a breath and gag, the smell stings your lungs and your eyes water, you can feel bodies around you but you you’re too scared to open your mouth to ask questions. People are crying and moaning, some are scouting and others stand still. You try to sit down but there are too many people and there’s no room to move. You wait. The days grow long and the nights are longer, the smell gets heavier and you know that people are dying around you. One day there’s a commotion and suddenly you’re taken from the dungeon and escorted with a row of strangers through the castle to a large door. The door swings open and you are blinded by the light, and the sounds around you make your ears ring. When your vision returns, you realize that you are being lead onto a boat. What you don’t realize is that you have just been traded for gun powder and will live the rest of your days as a slave in Europe.

This was the reality for more than 12,000 black men, women and children. Europeans got their taste of the profits that could be made from the sale of humans, a taste that wouldn't turn sour until the 19th century.

At any given time, 1500 people were held in the Cape Coast Castle waiting to be sold into slavery. This heritage site is reputed of being the largest slave-holding site in the World during the colonial era. Many of the slaves were sold to the British in exchange for alcohol or guns.

The Cape Coast Castle is a 'must see’ during a visit to Ghana. This Saturday we went on the tour. When you first arrive it seems like a cheery place with music playing and little gift shops selling handicrafts and paintings, but once the tour begins, you are taken back into time and everyone becomes quite. The tour takes you through three claustrophobic dungeons with stone walls still marked with desperate scratches from those imprisoned, and markers to show the levels of human defecation that people lived amongst during their imprisonment. Our group of 20 was forced to stand close when entering the female and male dungeons and then we were told that at one point there were more than 500 people in that exact spot. Close to the female dungeon on the eastern side of the castle is a huge door that was the ‘Point of no return’. Once the slaves were traded, they were sent through the door, onto boats never to return to their families. The weak slaves were thrown overboard along with pregnant women and those who caused trouble. Sharks followed the boat from Africa to Europe.

A couple of years ago a symbolic invitation was issued to two decedents of slaves that saw them return through the ‘Point of no return’, thus effectively breaking the chain. There is a sign on the other side now that says ‘Door of Return’. In 2009 President Obama visited the castle with the
first lady and her mother, who are descendants of slaves from South Carolina. Speaking after a tour of the castle,Obama said the fort should be a source of hope as well as repository of painful memories. "It reminds us that as bad as history can be, it's always possible to overcome."

It’s hard to describe the feeling of walking though the castle knowing that at one point in time, so many people witnessed its atrocity. For me, the most beautiful part about the experience it is that although the days of slavery are not forgotten, Ghanaians welcome Abruni’s to their country, their villages and their homes with open arms.
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Comments

Dad on

Great article Mel and extremely sobering!
Love Dad

othermom on

Your research really puts a perspective on where you are and what you are doing. We are enjoying all your wonderful stories and feelings. Love E&W

Twin A on

So horrible.

colest on

When will the SLAVES be known as Africans, When will almost everyone stop calling them slaves? Even your telling their story, they (Africans) are home with family, men with big guns kidnap them.... " many SLAVES were sold" "largest SLAVE-holding site..." They were Africans! They were kidnapped as Africans, they were sold Africans. they were put in dungeons as Africans, forced on ships, they were Africans..How did they lose their nationality? They were enslaved Africans, not SLAVES! Now we have decedents of slaves.....If you get on boat/ship, plane, bus, train, bike, is not your nationality still in tack or does it change when you step off? They were
Africans.

mpopowich
mpopowich on

Good point. I never really thought about it that way and agree with you.

ganian on

it was very bad i did not like it

Daniel on

Wow this is a phenomenal article im doing a research paper and definitely will site your work. The guy above does have a point and me being Ghanaian i truly agree with him and i hope he didn't have an attitude because the writer didn't know but i think that point needs to be brought to many peoples eyes as this entire article was brought to my eyes. Thank you for your work it really came in hand :)

Daniel Okai on

Wow this is a phenomenal article im doing a research paper and definitely will site your work. The guy above does have a point and me being Ghanaian i truly agree with him and i hope he didn't have an attitude because the writer didn't know but i think that point needs to be brought to many peoples eyes as this entire article was brought to my eyes. Thank you for your work it really came in hand :)

John on

it is aa horible scene to behold. whem will the slavery stop pur leaders thewn did this and our leaders now have not stopped either. this work need to be looked at even to the grass root as our History is been wiped out gradually,

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