To better understand the history of Ghana and its impact on modern life, any trip here should include a visit to at least one of the slave-trading sites along the coast. I visited one of Ghana’s most important slave-trading posts, Elmina Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a few weeks ago with my friend Yaw Osei. This was my first tour of a slave-trading site, and Yaw, who grew up in nearby Cape Coast, had never toured this castle.
Our tour guide showed us the cell where “stubborn” slaves were sent to die by starvation. He showed us the “door of no return,” the last doorway slaves would pass through before boarding ships bound for Europe or the New World. He showed us the balcony from where the governor would view a courtyard full of women slaves and choose which ones would be brought to his bed.
I could physically feel the weight of the immense sadness, horror, and despair experienced in this place. I felt sick as I imagined sitting in a cramped room with no ventilation with hundreds of female slaves and their urine, feces, vomit and menstrual blood. I felt even sicker as I thought about the anguish of being brutally separated from my family and loved ones. Stunning views of the ocean, boats, and seaside towns that I normally adore, brought no joy as I took in those from the top of the castle.
A visit to Elmina Castle, or any other slave-trading site along Africa’s west coast, is not part of what could be a laid-back beach weekend, but visitors will not regret including it in their travel itinerary. Important lessons are taught here, and the broadened “world view” I am constantly seeking now includes a whole new perspective on world development, the value of life, and humanity.