Door Of No Return ... 400 Years of Freedom


 Indeed it has been 400 years since the end of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, but to be honest, slavery in Africa has been going on for so long amongst the indigenous people and also to the people in South America (Portuguese). I'm not trying to confuse you all but I will break everything down according to what I learnt from my recent visit to Cape Coast Castle in December 2019.

Growing up in Ghana precisely Accra, visiting the castles was usually done when we receive foreigners from the USA or school trips. My very first visit was when I was 10 years old and all I could remember was our ancestors were maltreated, kept in a dark ‘hole’ and shipped to the USA. That was the only memory I had and oh yes! The dark dungeons. Whew, the dungeons, I cringe every time I remember the scenes from the dungeons.

My second visit was months ago and let me say, it was an eye opening,  heart-breaking, emotional and to be honest I wanted to kick every white person who came touring at the castle, thank God I had the heart to stay calm. Before the tour, we were asked to visit the museum to see the shackles, the ropes (OMG, they were so huge & thick!!) and rooms, where the whites bided for slaves, and a few cultural remains of how our kings and queens dressed. I was happy we did that because it gave us a general overview of the whole show during those days.

Our indigenous people were already being traded on a small scale until the ‘business’ became a greedy, violent, cruel and inhumane one. According to the information I gathered, a priest who had visited Gold Coast way before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was the one who informed the ‘leaders in America’ to come to Africa because the men were stronger than the red Indians :/[basically plantations, farms & construction work] and could work hard and build the America they desired.

They forcibly captured our ancestors in villages and some were actually sold by the chiefs in exchange of alcohol, mirror, gun powder etc., they are then taken to the castles and forts where they are labelled with hot iron because there were different slave masters in this business. They are then sent into the dungeons where they await to exit the door of no return to the new world.

Our first stop was the male dungeons, mine oh mine! I slipped and nearly fell y’ all. Let me give you all the juice of how it looked like; it was built like a cave with no stairs, it was dark and smelly. The dungeon floor was thick and slippery, that thick slippery floor was their blood, urine and defecate that had covered the initial floor of the dungeon. The tour guide then showed us the mark of the level to which it was initially. The male dungeon had 3 sections and each section harbored about 100 men, let me spell that out, one hundred men per section, it was an extremely small size dungeon! They had no source of light or ventilation only a small opening located at the top middle part of the dungeon; so each section had one. Pause, we were 6 people in that dungeon and trust me we were already sweating and needed to breath fresh air, imagine about 300-350 men in that dungeon.

Our forefathers could only see day light through that same vent hole. Defecation, eating and urination was done in the same place, they had to be held captive for a maximum of 3 weeks before the arrival of the ship. During the times of captivity, many fell ill (malaria and unhealthy environment), weak and some died, the dead ones where disposed of and the strong ones were shipped to the new world (aka America).

Our second stop was the little church that was on top of the male dungeon, yes you heard me right, and there was a church on top of the male dungeons which was attended by the families of the slave masters, we then proceeded to the war zone and other places in the castle.

Our third stop was the female dungeon. The female dungeon had two sections which could take 50 women per sections, they had the same small to little ventilation. Some of the slave masters and soldiers molested these women for their own sexual desires. I quickly asked what happened when they discover a slave is pregnant during the journey to the new world. They were thrown into the sea to clean all evidence (sleep or have molato babies) of the soldiers/slave masters atrocious acts.

We then moved on to see the governors, slave masters quarters, and they lived large; had the sea view with over 4 huge windows and a spacious environment. I was just mad and angry! We had the opportunity to visit so many places in the castles but the ‘cell’ was the worst part of all. It was a small dungeon with no ventilation and three doors, no one came out of that cell alive. It was purposely made to punish stubborn slaves. Up till date the cell door is the only surviving door in the castle, it was made of wood and copper. This door is heavy and was unbreakable.

Cape Coast Region was the main region where slave trade took place. There are over ten forts and castle but Elmina & Cape Coast Castle were the main trading centers.

Here are some shots and videos of the Castle, it’s a great touring site in Ghana, don’t forget to go to Elmina Castle because it was actually the main trading castle in Gold Coast now Ghana.


1 comment


  • Theresa

    Dear Ms. Zani (or ?): I have been up since 3:00 and not dressed yet so I was getting ready to use one of your scarves to tie on my head. I just became bald from an infection, so I need to cover my head. Wigs and hats are out so I turned to turbans. A brave decision since I am 69, wrinkled, white (I have only seen head wraps on ladies of color….on tv) and I didn’t know how to tie one. So I went to the internet and the tutorials. Cut up a couple of scarves to the right size, tried it and went back to tutorials….video this time. Better. Went up to lunch at a table. Very brave. No one stared at me. Success. Went looking for proper, beautiful scarves and found your site. Ordered some….a lot to choose from. Looking around your web site and clicked on your adventure with the slaving castles. My. You write such an emotional reaction that it was as if I was there too. Problem is….I would have been one of those white people. I kept seeing myself as the white, wrinkled, brave?, headscarf wearing, castle attending tourists that probably didn’t understand what I was actually seeing and experiencing…..and it shocked me. Then, well maybe wearing the headscarf would startle you long enough for me to speak to you. Do you wear headscarf’s too? At least we would have that in common…that and being women. Not the history or the slavery or the misery or the culture….probably not the baldness either. Well, just to let you know that your article jolted my emotions and that I love your scarves….I can leave my comfortable, one person retirement senior home and venture forth on my electric scooter to go to the dining room where no one will stare at me but I am the only one with a headscarf…..yours. Very Sincerely, Theresa


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