As we continue to delve into Ghanaian history, this week we’ll be taking a closer look at the slave trade and the legacy it left behind.
For around 150 years, Ghana was at the centre of the transatlantic slave trade. When the Europeans first arrived, they mainly traded in gold but by the 1500s trade in slaves became more popular. It is estimated that around 10 million slaves were transported from West Africa to the Americas and Caribbean. It is even estimated that 5,000 slaves were shipped from Ghana a year.
What many people don’t know, is that slavery was common for centuries before there was European contact. In a way, slavery was a part of African society, because often slaves were taken from the enemies during times of war. However, these slaves were treated as members of society who were given rights. This is very different to the type of slavery that the Europeans inflicted, which is well known for being an awful human atrocity, as slaves suffered awful and inhumane treatment.
The remains of the slave trade are still visible in Ghana today, as many of the castles that were used to imprison slaves continue to exist. Several castles, such as Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle were used to imprison slaves before they were being transported. Elmina Castle is most famous for having the “door of no return”, namely because the slaves who left were to never return to their home soil again and many of them died on the journey. Often up to 1,000 men and 500 women were chained and squeezed together in the dungeons. Just to name a few of the poor living conditions these slaves experienced, they had nowhere to lie down, there were no toilets, poor sanitation, a lack of water, lack of ventilation and women were constantly raped. Sadly, these people had to suffer for up to 3 months in these conditions before being transported. Even when they were being transported, they continued to experience such harsh conditions. They were they treated like cattle and chained for months, until the ships arrived in the Americas and the Caribbean, where they were subsequently enslaved and made to work in harsh conditions on plantations.
Although the slave trade was abolished over 200 years ago, its legacy and impact are still visible in the world today. Despite the tragic legacy left behind by the slave trade, initiatives are being put in place to educate people about this dark moment in Ghana’s history. This year in particular, has been declared as the Year of Return, to mark 400 years since the first slaves arrived in Virginia. This initiative was created to encourage those in the diaspora to experience some form of reconnection with the Motherland, whilst commemorating and remembering the awful human tragedy.
(Sources: Slavery Site and Epic World History)