The Cape Coast Castle sits in a beautiful place, its crumbling whitewashed walls a preserved monument to an haunting history: the torture, humiliation, and degradation of transatlantic slave trade, which saw the sale and purchase of human beings on an immense scale.
The fort’s dungeons are dark, fetid, oppressively hot caves. A couple tiny slits in the stone provided the only hint of light and a rough gutter was the only toilet facility for over a thousand captives imprisoned waiting for slave ships for up to three months at a time. In places, the floors have been left untouched to leave evidence of the depth of layered human waste that accumulated. There are frantic scratch marks on the floors and walls, especially in the windowless cells reserved to starve those who revolted or resisted.
Rage. Shame. Nausea.
Just atop the men’s dungeons where an unknown number died sits the airy governor’s quarters, the well-marked graves of the few Europeans who passed away here, and a church. This church struck President Obama in his family’s visit here as a strong reminder “that sometimes we can tolerate and stand by great evil even as we think that we’re doing good.” Human beings were branded like cattle and exchanged for material goods across a stone courtyard.
The castle’s “Door of No Return” was the departure point from the African continent for unwilling members of a massive diaspora. It opens to show a stunning seascape and nearby shores that are alive with the bustle of fishing boats bringing in their catch. It is also called the “Door of Return” now, welcoming back the descendents of slaves who come from around the world to walk the reverse journey of their ancestors.