There are some things that, although you know, you cannot truly know until you experience them in some tangible way. One example of this surrounds the horrors inflicted upon those men and women who were torn from their villages and sold into slavery.
Ghana, West Africa, was just one of many places where this tragedy occurred. Men and women were kidnapped or sold by those from other villages or, in some cases, by members of their own family.
The ship that would carry these victims to the United States only came once every several months. Those that would be treated no better than cattle on those ships had to be kept someplace while waiting for the ship to return and transport them into the hands of the people who would regard them as nothing more than property. One of those holding stations was the Cape Coast Castle.
Cape Coast Castle - Photo by flickr's Julius!
The castle was originally built for the less sinister purpose of being used for the trading of gold and timber. Before long, the castle and dungeon were being used to warehouse human beings.
The fact that the transatlantic slave trade happened is not new information. Most have heard stories and read accounts of what some individuals suffered as a result. But to stand in the spot where this suffering began for countless men and women is something that must be experienced to be fully understood.
Captives were herded into a large room with a dirt floor. Men were kept in one room, women in another. They were chained one to another and once the door was shut, it was not opened again.
There were two window slits about halfway up the wall. These windows were so small that they could not provide enough fresh air to drown out the stench that came from men forced to sit in their own waste for up to six months at a time while waiting for the ship to return. If someone died, their body stayed right there until after the ship came for its human cargo.
As a grim memorial of sorts, the floor has never been touched. It is exactly the same as it was when men spent months of suffering there.
The sound of the ocean can be heard in those dungeon rooms. Standing there in the damp, dark room one can almost feel the hopelessness that those who were brought there must have endured.
Cape Coast Castle - Photo by flickr's BillBl
There is an opening that has long ago been cemented closed. A sign hangs over it that reads The Point of No Return. It was through this door that the slaves were made to walk out of the castle and onto the beach where they were escorted onto the waiting ships.
As they walked through the door and toward the beach, the passageway became progressively narrower. This was designed in this manner so that a group of slaves could not exit the castle at once and put up a fight against the men who would put them on the ship. By the time it reached the beach, the passageway was so narrow that only one man or woman could stumble onto the beach at a time, making the job easier for those who held them captive.
The area where the women were kept was marginally better ventilated. Visitors are told that women, in general, were treated slightly better than the men. If they were pregnant, however, it was a different story.
If a woman was discovered to be pregnant while at the castle, there was a chance that she would be released. However, if her condition was not discovered until she was on the ship, she would be tossed over the side and left to drown.
A candle is kept lit constantly, and an attendant is on duty 24 hours a day to be sure the flame does not go out. The candle is in memory of the suffering and pain that man inflicted upon man. Offering of flowers or money can be made to the attendant.
Standing in the Cape Coast Castle, walking around the dungeons and touching the opening that was the Point of No Return is a truly haunting experience that offers another level of understanding to the horror that was the transatlantic slave trade.
Cindy | May 1, 2009 | Category: General