Life lessons at Elmina Castle

Elmina Castle

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.

Punishment cell

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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.

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10 comments

  1. wow. I can’t imagine what an intense experience touring this place is. I’m glad it has been desiginated a world heritage site, the past we forget is the one we are doomed to repeat.

  2. I felt much the same way when I visited Elmina Castle during my PULSE assignment. It was a very sobering experience that reminded me of how cruel people can be to each other.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. The cruelty we so often inflict on those we should see as brothers and sisters saddens me. The fact that we continue to lash out at those we should embrace, is only counteracted by those who go out and overtly do good. It is requisite for the triumph of evil for the good to do nothing. I commend you for acting as force of good for those in need. I appreciate you relaying your experience and representing those of us here on the home front. I feel honored to have you as the “face” of GSK, and your fellow Montanan’s, to those you are working with overseas. I am proud to call you a teammate, and more importantly friend. Be safe and keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for sharing that on your blog. I couldn’t imagine what emotions etc they would have experienced. Unfortunately like the holocaust It is truly sad to think of how cruel humans could be to one another, The only consolation is the fact that it is now just a memory and not a current hell hole for those involved. It also stands as a reminder of our responsibility as fellow humans to never let these actions/atrocities happen again. As a previous commenter stated hopefully we never forget so we never make these mistakes again as a people…..

  5. Sarah, I LOVE following your adventures on the Blog. I can’t imagine how this adventure is going to change you…and all of us who follow the blog. Be safe!

  6. Sarah, so good to read about your experiences. Reading about this place makes my heart ache. Can’t wait to read what comes next. Take care and be safe.

  7. Thank you so much for your updates Sarah. Timely as we just celebrated the 50tg anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech here at home. I also want to wish you a very HAPPY BiRTHDAY!!! I am thinking of you today, hoping you are safe and doing well. Take care Sarah, and keep up the great work!!! Kim Molloy

  8. That had to be a surreal experience. Your description of what the female slaves had to endure was mind numbing. This experience that you’re sharing with us is making us all more aware and broadening our “world view”. Thank you!! Be safe!

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