Coming Face to Face with the Transatlantic Slave Trade

My response to “Why did you choose to go to Ghana?” was to get a better idea of the slave trade that happened out of West Africa.  To explore what possibly is part of my ancestory.  You can only imagine how this experience chokes one with emotion at the depths to which man can be so cruel. 

Along the coast of Ghana are castles/forts where the human trade “cargo” was stored before shipping to the Americas.  I explored two castles, one in Cape Coast and the other one in Elmina.  One was run by the British and the other by the Portuguese.  The tours of the castles start in the dungeons where 1000 men were cramped into small rooms where they lived in their blood, vomit and excrement.  Many didn’t even make it to the Americas as they died in the dark, underground cells that had minimal ventilation.  The women were kept separated.  The prettiest ones were selected to be raped.  When ready to make the voyage to the Amercas, they walked through now sealed tunnels (that were sealed when slavery was abolished) to a narrow passage way called the Door of No Return.  They were packed onto boats sitting between each others legs so that they could fit in as many people as possible.  Many didn’t survive the boat trip with their bodies being thrown overboard to feed the sharks.  For every 1 person that made it to the Americas to be a slave, 4 people died.

Initially, when the Europeans arrived in West Africa, they were trading goods.  The human trade began when the natives of the Americas were dying because of the diseases that the Europeans brought with them.  It was suggested that maybe the Africans would be stronger and they trialled the first set of slaves in Haiti.  When it was found to be successful, the human trade was expanded to Amercia, the Caribbean, and South America.  When it was finally abolished, there was still an underground market that continued.  The reason for abolishing slavery was not out of some final sense of humanitarianism, but due to the technological revolution; no need for human labour.

Walking through these castles evoked so many different emotions.  What to learn from this, is how do we avoid an atrocities like this from happening again.  Unfortunately, the same mentality that allowed the Transatlantic Slave Trade to happen still continues to be prevalent in today’s society: child labour, exploitation of cheap labour, abuse of natural resources and the environment are just examples.  Traveling to Ghana to emerse myself in this history was an experience that everyone should take the time to go and visit.

Photos can be seen at http://cid-1db8a41159295e1e.photos.live.com/browse.aspx/Ghana%20September%202010

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