Soon after our Ghana welcome and naming ceremony we were bused down the Atlantic to the slave castles of Elmina and Cape Coast. The panoramic ocean view is spectacular from the roof –even with a row of ancient cannons still in place. However, the literally millions of African men and women who had been marched in chains 80 miles from Kumasi never saw it. What they saw as they sweated and thirsted for water, was a gleaming white castle on the horizon.
No, these unsuspecting souls had no idea of the truth, could not imagine their fate, until they were herded straight into dark, dank dungeons: one labeled “Male,” one “Female.”
On a bright hot afternoon I walked with our group down a steep ramp into the bowels of this dungeon. As I stepped onto the floor it felt soft, squishy and we were told it was that way from the long-ago accumulation of human epidermis. I couldn’t help it, tears began to well up. And then I could barely see, especially as only a sliver of light — or air — could penetrate from a small barred opening high up one wall. And as I stood with my back against the brick it felt ice cold.
And then we were told that the soon-to-be-slaves never again saw the light of day as they were forced through underground tunnels straight below decks on ships ready for the horrendous middle passage.
The slave trade was an evil part of a three-way economic system:
1. Goods brought from Europe and traded in Africa.
2. African humans taken to the Caribbean, to South America (particularly Brazil as it was the Portuguese who began major slave trading and colonized Brazil) and eventually in smaller numbers to North America, where they were traded for cash or goods.
3. Goods from the Americas and the Caribbean traded in Europe.
And imagine, round and round the horrid triangle it went from 1540 well into the 1800’s!