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November 9, 2010

Slave Castles in Ghana Part 1 – The Door of No Return

Location of Ghana
Location of Ghana


Ghana is located in West Africa. Its southernmost coast borders the Atlantic Ocean. It comforting to me, having spent much of my life a stone’s throw from the ocean, to know that the Atlantic is so near. This was not always a source of comfort, however. In the 18th century, the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then known, was a major port for the transportation of slaves to the Caribbean.

Cape Coast and Elmina are two towns about two and a half hours drive from Ghana’s capital. Each of these towns houses a slave castle. What an oxymoron, you might think, but the description is apt. The buildings are strong, majestic stone structures, well preserved and well fortified castles through which an estimated 10 million to 40 million slaves passed before they were shipped off to the new world.

Cape Coast castle
Cape Coast castle

Canons protecting Cape Coast castle
Canons protecting Cape Coast castle

A tour of the facilities gives a stark idea of the conditions under which humans held their fellow human beings. Men and women who were dragged from their abodes, kidnapped from villages, separated from their families and tossed into rooms with little light, little food and no facilities for toileting. When it was time for them to make their journey through the middle passage, the slaves were shepherded along a passageway, men on one side, women on the other towards a door aptly called the “Door of no return”. There were no happy endings here. On the other side, ships waited to take them on a dangerous journey which only the unlucky survived.

Slave holding at Cape Coast castle
Slave holding at Cape Coast castle


People have different reactions to visiting this castle. Some saddened, some are embarrassed, others angry, few are unaffected. A friend of mine witnessed a scene in which an African visitor berated a Dutch lady for her ancestors sins until the woman came to tears. The voices of the enslaved still echo in those rooms reminding us of atrocities that should not still be happening today.

Read more about the Cape Coast Slave Castle dungeon in my next post.

2 thoughts on “Slave Castles in Ghana Part 1 – The Door of No Return”

    1. It was a very emotional visit for me. For the children, I tried to keep it in perspective, they need to know, because if we don’t remember these things they can happen again. On the other hand, they need to be aware that we have to move forward and work with what life has provided us today. See the November 29 post “Our Gift”.

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