In honor of Juneteenth, I’m sharing photos of my visit to and guided tour of the Elmina slave castle in Cape Coast, Ghana, back in 2012. Aspects of the middle passage and slavery in the US have been routinely documented, but it wasn’t until I visited Elmina, the first European slave trading post in sub-saharan Africa and Ghana’s “Door of No Return”, that I had a full picture of the horrors of slavery. Elmina’s slave traders and dungeons were notoriously brutal and horrific, and slaves were kept there for up to several months before being loaded onto boats. Strangely enough, it was the first time (on my third trip to Africa) that I felt a tangible connection between my history and that of the African continent. I stood at the Door of No Return and felt an overwhelming and profound sense of sorrow, comfort, as well as pride in that I was able to return as their descendent, hundreds of years later, and acknowledge this part of my ancestors’ journey, their presence on and brutal separation from the African continent. Their presence there has not been forgotten and cannot be erased. There’s a quote that I love from Maya Angelou that is displayed in the Smithsonian African American History Museum, “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” I came back as their dream and their hope incarnate, standing in the place where their despair began.
In the photos below, there is the Door of No Return. It is very small and was made so to ensure only one slave would fit through at a time for loading. Nowadays, the tide no longer rises to the door. Also, I’ve included photos of where female slaves were imprisoned; it’s a room with little to no sunlight and that lacked direct ventilation at the time. The same bare floor is where they slept, used the bathroom, and waited for up to months on end.
Photos courtesy of Courtney Dianne