From Slave Post to Museum ; in Ghana, African-Americans Visit Castles Where Their Ancestors May Have Been Held before Being Shipped to the New World as Slaves

By Wheeler, Jacob | The Christian Science Monitor, December 31, 2002 | Go to article overview

From Slave Post to Museum ; in Ghana, African-Americans Visit Castles Where Their Ancestors May Have Been Held before Being Shipped to the New World as Slaves


Wheeler, Jacob, The Christian Science Monitor


The old slave castle looks peaceful today, covered with a coat of white paint and overlooking the waves lapping the rocks along the Atlantic shoreline.

Local boys play soccer matches among abandoned buildings nearby. In the evenings they move into the castle and fill the warm air with the beat of energetic drum circles.

None of this can overshadow Cape Coast Castle's gruesome past for hundreds of tourists who pass through each week to tour the grounds and weep in its eerie dungeons.

Cape Coast lies about three hours from Accra, the modern capital of Ghana, on a stretch of West Africa known as the Gold Coast.

Ghana may well have the highest concentration of slave posts anywhere in the world, giving it the dubious nickname "the shopping street of West Africa."

Dozens of historic castles, forts, and trading posts may still be found along a coastline less than 310 miles long.

In Cape Coast and nearby Elmina, the castles have been converted into well-maintained museums that educate as much as they torment, while many other forts are now inexpensive hotels with breathtaking views of the ocean.

This former British colony has become a destination for African- Americans digging for their roots or looking for a different perspective of the continent that seems to generate only bad-news headlines.

Because it is one of the few stable, democratic countries on the continent, and one where English is the official language, American tourists generally feel comfortable here.

Ghana Airlines offers nonstop flights once a week from New York and Washington to Accra, and British Airways flies through London. Finding a round-trip ticket for under $800 is nearly impossible, but, once you've arrived, you'll find that everything in Ghana tends to be inexpensive.

It's easy to find comfortable accommodations in Accra or Cape Coast for less than $70 per night, and a scenic, safe highway connects the two coastal cities. The best time to go is in February and March or July and August, just before the Gold Coast's two rainy seasons.

The anguish

"I have come full circle back to my destiny: from Africa to America and back to Africa," Atlanta resident Contrena Randolph wrote in the guest book at Cape Coast Castle, built by Swedes in 1653. "I could hear the cries and wails of my ancestors. I weep with them and for them."

Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, a professor of literature at the University of Cape Coast, warns against the danger of forgetting, in poems about Ghana's slavery castles: "In silence and alone mothers hear the cries of their stolen children. The castle breathes sweetness. If people died of all the things they remember, we would live forever."

The tour through Cape Coast Castle is saddening though subtle, as the soft-voiced guide speaks with neither anger nor alarm in his voice. He points out scratch marks nearly two feet high on the dungeon walls, the height to which prisoners' waste reached as they waited, sometimes for months, for slavery ships to take them to the New World.

"Something startles where I thought I was safest," writes Professor Opoku-Agyemang. "The darkness of the dark continent was born here in the fretful culture of dense fear."

The tourist also sees the one-room, windowless cells, where unruly prisoners were condemned to death by starvation.

This contrasts sharply with the roomy, illuminated quarters upstairs for the Europeans occupying the castle at that time.

Historical journey

But Cape Coast's most powerful display is a Smithsonian-funded exhibition saved for the end of the tour. It provides a chronological journey through local history, before the Europeans arrived, showing the traditional lives of local African tribes, both around Cape Coast and also farther inland, where the majority of the slaves lived.

The men hollowed out canoes and painted them with symbols. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

From Slave Post to Museum ; in Ghana, African-Americans Visit Castles Where Their Ancestors May Have Been Held before Being Shipped to the New World as Slaves
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.