My Visit to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, West Africa, Retracing Our Ancestors' Journey from Bondage to Slavery; Part 1

Upon arriving at Cape Coast Castle and seeing it there in sight, I immediately imagined what our Ancestors must have felt seeing this humongous building before them, and possibly having heard tales of this place where captured Africans were taken to, never to return. It must have been a dreadful feeling, seeing the structure that was to hoard them and be the final place on Africa they would encounter before leaving permanently

My Visit to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, West Africa, Retracing Our Ancestors' Journey from Bondage to Slavery; Part 1

Cape Coast Castle on the West Coast of Ghana | Image Credit to MNI Alive Media

None can go back in time and rewrite the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

However, it is my resolute conviction that those of us present and alive today who are the descendents of the millions of African men and women who were captured and transported against their will across the Atlantic Ocean into hundreds of years of forced labour and servitude – that we owe this disturbing moment in history a duty of honour to Respect its Legacy.

The history that concerns this call for respect is not cordoned only to the history of Africa. The history of Africa is also the history of North America; The Caribbean, South & Central America, The United Kingdom, Europe and also too certain Arab Countries. It was all of these countries that had a role to play in the institution of Slavery, and the suffering that Black Africans endured.

It began in the late 16th century from the Coastal regions of West Africa; to include - Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Angola. It also took place on the Eastern side of Africa from countries like Mozambique, Zanzibar, Madagascar. This brutality of Slavery lasted towards the 19th century, where millions of Black Slaves were shipped off into the New World over a period of around 320 years in duration.

There is an uncomfortable truth that has been confronted here in Africa. The facts will show that fellow Blacks were sold into Slavery by their very own country people who were fulfilling what was then a robust need for Black human labour in the New World by the Colonial powers. For this stain on African history, Regional Chiefs here in Ghana, during the 1990s, offered an unconditional apology for the role their very own Ancestors played in aiding the Slave trade.

A plaque is also present at Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle in recognition of this apology, which reads;

"May those who died rest in peace. May those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity. And we, the living vow to uphold this. As we walk out the castle, we all carry a lot of responsibilities. We are just going to preach against injustice. And from now on, once we see ourselves as brothers."

Many of us have heard, or read about the inhumanity of the Slave Trade, and what our Ancestors went through. However, the first hand experience and the enlightenment that I recently experienced brought it home to me that the brutality of slavery did not just begin when our Ancestors landed in the New World, but rather, their suffering and human degradation began with their capture here in Africa, and was compounded in the manner in which they were held captive in the dark dungeons of many slave fortresses littered across the West African Coast.

Travelling to Ghana’s Cape Coast to witness and retrace what out forefathers went through was a moment that I could not have imagined would have had such a significant impact.

I woke the morning and contemplated on what was about to take place that day. I said a silent prayer. On the way there the anticipation was calm and measured, for I knew there were some potentially uncomfortable moments to come.

Upon arriving at Cape Coast Castle and seeing it there in sight, I immediately imagined what our Ancestors must have felt seeing this gigantic building before them, and possibly having heard tales of this place where captured Africans were taken to, never to return. It must have been a dreadful feeling, seeing the structure that was to hoard them and be the final place on Africa they would encounter before leaving permanently.

 

The Spirits of our Ancestors can be felt as you walk through Cape Coast Castle. So too, I am sure, for other Castles along the West coast of Africa that were used for the very same purposes.

The inhumanity that was explained that took place inside the male dungeons, where men numbering from 500 - 1000 were all packed into a dark, hot and stench ridden dungeon with barely any space for movement, and were made to wait there for sometimes up to 6 weeks before their transportation as Slaves to the New World.

 

In these dungeons the men were forced to endure exposure and degradation to their own, and their fellow captor’s urinations, faeces and vomit!

Such was the human suffering that took place in these ungodly dungeons, whilst just a few feet above their heads their European enslavers held Church; Bible scripture readings, and hymnals - totally detached from the human suffering ongoing right beneath their feet.

The plight of female captured Slaves was no more comforting, for they too were held in a separate holding dungeon in mass numbers without the opportunity of cleaning themselves for weeks on end. They were subjected to rape for the sexual pleasure of their European captors, and those who resisted were placed in a tiny holding area in solitary confinement.

It was only those women whom the captors wished to have intercourse with that they allowed to wash themselves before forcing them into sexual slavery and rape. In these fortresses that housed our Ancestors prior to the Middle Passage Journey - inhumanity, suffering, deprivation and sub-human cruel treatment was allowed to reign for hundreds of years. The thought itself moves the soul in ways that only can be experienced first hand to ever truly understand.

Today, Cape Coast Castle and many others on Africa’s West Coast, stand as a reminder to us all that no matter the progress that we have made as a people, we must never forget.

There are some individuals who would say that slavery has gone many years ago so why bother? We have no need to look back they say.

They are right on one thing, and that is that the inhumanity and human suffering of Slavery has gone. But despite all the advances we have today, we need to show respect to this time in our collective history. Societies advance having paid honour and respect to their history, and from where they have come from as a people.

 

It is unrealistic to expect that our communities today will grow; prosperity will dominate; and generations to come will understand their historical roots if even today we pay no regard towards showing gratitude and respect towards what those who came before us went through so that we many be here today.

It is significant also that the tide that moved against our Ancestors – the tide that captured them and put them into bondage; the tide that saw them being kept in their own human waste for weeks on end; the tide that took them from the shores of Mother Africa into slavery in the New World – the historical cruelty of that tide must forever be reversed!

For those who can make the journey to Africa, it is paramount that they do so. For those who can’t make the journey, but can learn of our history from wherever they may now reside, it is also relevant that they do so.

Africa today needs not just the Africans that reside on its rich land, but Africa today needs its sons and daughters the world over to unite in a commune of Spiritual and also physical harmony to advance the cause that many have so far died for – and that cause is the advancement of our human condition as a people.

This journey to Africa and the Cape Coast has given me immense perspective. It has empowered my soul and my mind as a man from Africa, and a Caribbean man of African descent. It has reconnected me to the conditions our Ancestors had to endure. The spiritual resonance of our Ancestors still runs very powerfully even in these modern times.

For Africa, and people of African decent, the opportunity presents itself for us to come to know who we are, but most importantly to respect who we are. Our Ancestry asks of us that we never forget their sacrifice and their pain.

But above and beyond all things the opportunity is right and rife that we lend to our legacy as a people by knowing without excuse or disregard that we are from Africa! We are of Africa! We are where we are throughout the world because of Africa!

View Video Feature 1: below of the Male Slave Dungeons at Cape Coast Castle: 


View below the continuation of Video 1 from above:

Jeevan Robinson is Managing Director & Editor-in-Chief of Marketing, News & Information Media – MNI Alive Media. He can be reached at jeevan@mnialive.com