Like visiting a Concentration Camp, my visit to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana was a somber reminder of the depravity of the human race.
A Day Trip To Cape Coast Castle in Ghana
I hired a driver in Accra for the four-hour, 150-kilometer journey. The concierge at the Accra Marriott Hotel hooked me up with a friend and I negotiated a price of $120 (about 700 Ghanaian Cedi) for round-trip transport in an air-conditioned car with driver/guide, which was only slightly more than a round-trip on Uber. That included admission into Cape Coast castle.
The Drive To Cape Coast
Four hours for 150 kilometers? Yes…traffic was bad and the roads not always in the best condition. More than 70% of Ghanians identify as Christian and this was clearly evident during the drive down, though I shook my head in sadness at the “prophets” offering to heal strokes…
On the way down we also passed Fort Amsterdam, a UNESCO World Heritage site and remanent of the Dutch Gold Coast. It was but one of many slave castles along the coast of West Africa, though not as notorious as Cape Coast or Elmina Castle.
We also stopped at the first Methodist church in Ghana (my guide was Methodist), built in 1835 and located right outside the castle and fort in Cape Coast.
The Castle Grounds
We reached the castle at about 15:45. The structure is deteriorating, but stands a stark reminder of a horrific past. A guided tour was set to begin at 16:30, so I used the first 45 minutes to walk around the grounds myself and also check out the museum portion of the castle, one of the many Ghana museums and monuments recounting the horrors of the trans Atlantic slave trade.
Did you know that most African slaves went to Brazil or the West Indies, not North America? That hardly makes the history of slavery in the United States any less gruesome, but paints an even grimmer picture of the depth and breadth of the slave trade.
Cape Coast Castle was first erected in 1653 by the Swedish Africa Company and called Carlusborg Fort. The Danish West India Company took it by force in 1657 and the fort volleyed between Danish, Dutch, and Swedish control before the British conquered it in 1664. It served as a 17th century West African trading post for European traders and a center of commerce and Gold Coast life. By 1797, thousands of bricks had been imported form England to rebuild the fort and enlarge its slave-holding capacity.
Our tour guide took us through the castle, sharing in graphic detail the inhumane conditions that kidnapped humans endured. Life as a slave was hard, but the true test of endurance and strength was surviving Cape Coast castle.
Thousands of men were herded into confined dungeons and chained together. With no restrooms, defecation and urination took place on the ground, which spread sickness and disease. Deep below ground, there was also no air ventilation. These men were not even afforded fresh water for days at a time. Instead, small slits toward the ceiling allowed the high tide to flow in. The men had only salt water to drink, and puddles of salt water to sleep in at night. When a man died, his corpse was left to rot. It was barbaric.
And it’s not like the ladies prison was any better. Women were left for months at a time. If they survived, they were pulled out of their cell covered in menstrual and other bodily fluids.
Even with such inhumane conditions, humanity shined through. Rebellions occurred…and were brutally crushed.
Door of No Return
For those who managed to remain alive, the transatlantic voyage was just as treacherous, with people stacked like logs and still chained together on the boat.
A “Door of No Return” stands at the bottom of the fort. Those who did survive were marched out from underground dungeons to the slave ships waiting to transport them across the Atlantic (“The Middle Passage”). For nearly all of them, it would be their last breath of fresh air in Africa.
What hurt me the most was the irony of the fort’s church being located directly over the male slave holding cell. While congregants sang of the mercy and love of God, they let men snatched from their families languish in squalid conditions and suffer excruciating deaths.
The Inhumanity Of It All…
I was the only white guy there…the entire time. There was an American group of six from Atlanta that was visiting. They claimed to have traced their ancestry back to this point and were weeping by the end of the tour. I weeped too. It was so much more than I had bargained for.
I did not visit Cape Coast Castle out of guilt. But I left feeling guilty…not because of the white color of my skin or for any particular act of omission or commission I engaged in, but for the depravity and hypocrisy of my fellow man. What a horrific reminder of our capacity to sin.
The journey back took five hours because we hit no less than 40 checkpoints, apparently meant to deter drunk driving. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on all that I heard and seen…
(A big thank you to Trevor from Tagging Miles for suggesting this day trip).
This story is part of my An African Adventure As The World Shut Down trip report.
very irresponsible during Covid imo.
We need to keep cases down, hence, why CA has said only essential travel recommended now.
This trip was in March. See the link at the bottom of the post…
We should feel guilty because it is not as well known as Auschwitz. I did not know about it till obama visited it. Once again the history is written by the whites to favor the whites.
However I see a big change in awareness, even the number of non white people in the media after obama, which of course now threatens the WRM who voted for trump in droves
The change from white centric narrative to a neutral one was too threatening for many people. US has paid lip service to integration. If a group has not fully integrated after 150 years of independence then there is a systemic bias preventing them from integrating. I see more progress since millennials came of age than ever before. They are loud and demanding and impatient, which threatens the WRM even more.
Also i do not think the slave traders were inherently racist. But they needed human labor in plantations to pick cotton. There was money to be made and not enough labor. That made them look at these people as profit centers to be exploited ruthlessly. But how do you justify exploiting a fellow human like this? By de-humanuzibg them. By making it well known that their race was inferior and thus racism was born. Racism was a by product of the lust for money and capitalism. Blame the slave trade on capitalism. And to top it all off most of these slave owners were hard core Christians who might beat you up if you even took the lord’s name in vain. Talk about a shallow poser.
Does this remind you of anyone? Of course i am taking about trump and WRM. Their language and posing and relying on religion and justifying things under capitalism haven’t changed one bit. Their dog whistles are from slave trade era.
In Brazil and the West Indies labor for sugar cane plantations was the predominant driver for slave trade. Given that most of the slave trade was to Brazil and the Caribbean, it is unfortunate that most of what’s taught around the world is predominantly focuses on US slave experience. It is very hard to find English literature on the Brazilian experience. Louis Gates had an interest show about the black experience in Latin America https://www.pbs.org/wnet/black-in-latin-america/
Thanks for that. I had seen Louis Gates’s work in Africa but not on this. He is a very talented man and I look forward to watching
@ABC – the Afro-Brasil Museum in Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paulo has some excellent exhibits regarding the history of slave trade in Brazil, as do a number of places in Salvador da Bahia. However, as you say, a bulk of this is in the Portuguese language rather than English.
Debit @ how again is Trump enforcing slavery I would love to hear that
What a terrible trade and I admire you for visiting. Many criticize keeping places like this or other concentration camps around yet we will keep repeating the past if we don’t remember. And remembering atrocities like this camp’s will keep fuel to the fire of equality and right.
Thank you for sharing this visit.
I’m so glad you made it there! I was left with a similar feeling, the difference in my experience, is that we had a cadre of Ghanaians, Nigerians, Sierra Leonians, and Senegalese with our group who we had traveled up to the castle with, which made it even more personal, even more guttural. Well worth the long drive, to see a part of human history that I’m sure many would rather just ignore, but we can’t.
Also – Awesome that the Marriott finally opened! I remember watching it being built at a snails pace back in 2011!
Slavery is an abomination that remains in practice to this day, mostly prevalently in Africa. People in the US want to vilify white folx who had nothing to do with how it was practiced centuries ago, but very few acknowledge that Africans were very much complicit in the trade. How do you think the European slavers got the slaves in the first place?
White folx were being enslaved long before Africans were by the Europeans. No group has a monopoly on suffering. The Oppression Olympics must end. White folx ended slavery but get no credit for it. If the US is so irredeemably evil and racist in the minds of the woke, why are people from places like Nigeria, where most American descendants of slaves’ ancestors came from, choosing to immigrate to the US and thriving?
Black folx in America are in the thrall of utopian socialist policies that rob them of equity and agency. The sooner they kick the Democrats and the legacy of the Great Society to the curb, the better.
An important fact that you left out, is that the human trading could NOT have happened WITHOUT the complicity of the Black government. Isn’t all about the money, even today.
As a traveler, the Marriott is not in a convenient location. Stayed downtown, can walk around town. Safe, also at night. Elmina castle and town worth a night. Felt safe, at night.
Traveled to cape Coast for half the price by private car. (And I think I over paid) But without guide and entrance fee. The Castle tour comes with guide.