To date, there remain evidence of the cruelty and inhumane activities of slave traders during their activities on the African continent.
Coastal cities were the border points and warehouses for slaves before they were shipped to Europe and America. The evidence and relics of inhumane slave activities still present in these cities today gives a glimpse of what African slaves were subjected to before being shipped off.
Ghana was a famous take-off point and striving hub for slavery activities. There are shocking footprints of slave activities in Ghana, which have been preserved infamous sites, such as the Elmina Castle.
The Elmina Castle was a famous dungeon where African slaves were kept – and sorted, before their transportation to Europe and America. Behind the walls of these castles and many more like it, African slaves witnessed the cruelest and most tragic periods of the transatlantic slave trade.
Elmina Castle, a white-washed fortress located on the coast of a small town in modern-day Ghana, is a painful remembrance of what African ancestors were subject to after they were forcefully taken from their lands to serve as slaves abroad.
The castle was first built in 1482 as what was meant to be a trading settlement for the Portuguese. It stands on a 91,000 sq foot behemoth, and would later be converted to become of the major slave depots in the transatlantic slave trade area for more than three centuries.
Today, the castle has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it attracts tens of thousands of visitors from across the globe every year.
Speaking on how it derived the name, Alex Afful, a tour guide who operates at the castle, says there are two schools of thought on the inspiration behind the castle’s name.
“One believed that the word ‘Elmina’ is an Arabic name, which means ‘harbor.’ One also has it that it’s a Portuguese word meaning, ‘the mine,’ Afful says.
“At the rate they were getting it, this made the Portuguese to think or believe that a gold mine is found here,” he says.
Soon, the European superpowers soon discovered that human cargo was a more valuable commodity than gold, so they converted the Elmina into a prison and warehouse for African slaves.
Captives faced some of the most brutal experiences in their lives behind the Castle walls before being sold to the slave merchants who shipped them off to the land of no return.
As a famous sorting ground, this was where prisoners were sorted into gender, age groups, and their fitness was determined. So, they determined the price tag on a slave and which slaves were suitable for further journeys.
“Normally they want the healthy captives, so first they have to count. They have an instrument that they use to open their teeth, to count the number of teeth that they had,” Afful explains.
“In some cases, they have to be whipped for them to jump, for them to see how strong that they are. So, that’s the first phase. Now, when they get in here, day after that has been done, they were then put in the various dungeons.”
After the testing phase, the slaves were moved to their cells in the Elmina dungeons, where they were subjected to unprintable conditions – even by the standards at that time.
“There were no toilets. There were no bathrooms. In some cases, they had straws on the floor, which they used as a mattress and so on,” Afful describes.
“In all these dungeons, they were given buckets, which they were expected to ease themselves.”
“But because of the conditions they were in, the chains they had on their feet made it almost impossible for them to get to this bucket,” Afful told CNN during an interview.
What was most derogating was that these captives could spend as much as three to four months in these dungeons awaiting slave ships from Europe and America to transport them into a dark and unknown future.
Even after the ships arrived, it would also take weeks and sometimes months for negotiations and payments to be carried out for the slaves.
After purchase, the buyers would brand their slaves in order to be able to distinguish them in the future. Since slaves of different merchants would be transported together.
“Now, with the branding, each merchant has its own method of doing it. Some will use alphabet; some will use numbers on the form of a metallic stamp,” Afful describes.
“They put it in the fire; already they have some oil on their body (to) prepare them for the journey. So they burn them on the skin,”
After being branded and subjugated, the captives were led aboard awaiting ships through the Door of No Return.
“When the ship came, they took them in batches through the ‘Door of No Return,’ and they get to the ship, for the journey to proceed from there,” he says.
The ‘Door of No Return’ and the Elmina Castle are still alive and well, even after many centuries. But sadly, the history behind it is fast dying as many Africans continue to lose touch with their history daily.
It is this decadence that individuals like Edmund Abaka,, Associate Producer of History and International Studies at the University of Miami, believes Africans must put a stop to.
“We have to move away from the perception that, ‘oh, history is about the past, history is about people who are dead and gone,’” Abaka says.
“It is our story. If we don’t tell our story, somebody will tell their story,” he adds.
There is no denying that Africans – especially the youths must-visit centers such as these to become awakened to the realities of our past, and be better informed of the present towards sustaining Africa’s legacy in the future.
Credit:CNN, Tanni Deb, Segun Akande
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