‘a place of profound sadness’

The UK Independent: The ocean views are stunning, but it’s the tragic past of Ghana’s rugged coast that is also drawing in visitors, thanks in part to America’s first black president.

Perched on the windswept edge of West Africa, the imposing whitewashed former slave trading fort known as Cape Coast Castle has seen a steady increase in visitors since US President Barack Obama and his family toured here in 2009.

The dark dungeons where untold numbers of people were kept before being shipped off as slaves serve as stark reminders of the brutality they endured – a point of view perhaps too often overlooked in the Western world.

….Obama, whose wife Michelle traces her ancestry to slaves, chose Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president in July 2009, and he and his family made sure to stop at Cape Coast Castle … A tour of the fort was “a moving moment”, Obama said then.

He added that “there is a special sense that on one hand this place was a place of profound sadness, on the other hand it is where the journey of much of African-American experience began.”

“Following President Obama’s visit we are seeing a consistent increase in international arrivals,” deputy Tourism Minister Kobby Akyeampong told AFP. Current arrivals are averaging 748,000 per year from 587,000 two years before and the aim is to hit a million thanks in part to the so-called “Obama effect”.

Full article here

11 Responses to “‘a place of profound sadness’”

  1. 1 collegekay
    March 19, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    What a profound experience. It’s crazy, I don’t even know where I came from. It would be cool to trace my ancestry. I really want to go to Ghana and South Africa.

  2. 3 Asher in Boston
    March 19, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    CollegeKay, any African country you decide to visit would do. You will be surprised that every African country is a treasure to visit. They all are unique in there own way. Most people are very friendly and always helpful to tourists/visitors. Apart from the greedy, thieving, corrupt, murderous leaders, the every day people are soo nice.

  3. 4 Bri
    March 19, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    POTUS and FLOTUS are truly lucky to be able to know exactly what country in Africa their ancestors come from, I need to take a genealogist test, to find out the country where my ancestors come from.

  4. 5 barb
    March 19, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    It’s sad that the exact origin of birth was not given to the slaves upon their arrival but then they weren’t considered human were they? So much time has passed to find those Roots. That is why oral history is so important and DNA testing might help.

    It good that tourism has increased since our First Family’s visit.

    • 6 Bri
      March 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm

      No, slaver were considered to not be human. Slaves were even listed beneath animals when they were sold.

  5. 7 Hali
    March 19, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    I’ve been a regular visitor on this site for about a year now, but this is my first time commenting. I went to Cape Coast a few years ago, 2003 to be precise. I went by road from Lagos with a few friends, one of whom is British-Ghanaian. It was a 8-hour journey and we went by road because we wanted to experience something new. We went from Nigeria, through Benin Republic and Togo (Togo’s about 45 minutes by road from east to west!) From Benin Republic to Togo’s border with Ghana, we had the Atlantic as company; it was so blue! Also where the Volta river flows into the Atlantic (not sure if in Togo or Benin), we found all shades of blue and green…

    Cape Coast is an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Although I am not American of African origin, I could immediately imagine what those sold into slavery must have experienced. The were spaces (can’t even call them rooms) carved into the walls where the slaves were held, with no natural light. I had to bend to go in and could not stand up straight in them – I’m not the tallest person in the world – I’m 5’5.

    To be honest I felt sick during the visit. The spaces were empty, but I could here cries and screams and could feel the anguish and pain of the men and women who had been held there. It’s something I think everyone should see.

  6. 8 Blackman
    March 19, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Hopefully, you’ve done as you said and have gone to bed, Chip, so, hopefully, you’ll see this in the morning. But, I’m impressed that you went back to the First Family’s Africa trip and posted this picture of them at Cape Coast Castle. It’s, as I recall, Dutch in it’s origin.

    I’m a 1973 proud graduate of Morehouse College. And, in April of 1972, as part of our Glee Club, I/we was/were on a cultural exchange tour of five African countries (Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda – THAT is a story right there because we were there right after Idi Amin – who WAS there – had expelled (while killing many. the rest of the world didn’t know what he had done at that point) all of the Asians – and Ethiopia (these were some of Haile Selasse’s last days. and, yes…I met him). And, Ghana. I’ve actually been to and have been very IN the Castle. I’m 60 now and, at any point, I still find myself thinking about having been down in those dungeons. I cannot describe to you just how dark and suffocating it is. These dungeons have aMAzingly high ceilings with VERY small openings VERY high up that would let in wisps of air. There was NO way of escape. The walls are FEET thick. The chains and shackles, which are still there, are REAL.

    When POTUS says it’s “moving”…..I guarantee……he, Michelle and even the girls will not, if ever, forget this experience.

    MUCH more I could say, but I’ll add this…

    As POTUS correctly states that, for many, the African-American experience began here, another location where the African experience ended and the American one began and I experienced and is often called the African’s Ellis Island, is the island of Goree (there should be a tilde over the first e). This, as you would leave Dakar, Senegal, is the last piece of Africa that you’d see.

    It, too, still reverberates.

    • 9 Theo67
      March 20, 2011 at 12:20 am

      Great accounts from both you and Hali. Thanks!

    • 10 globalcitizenlinda
      March 20, 2011 at 1:13 am

      Born and raised in Uganda so nice to know that some here and the rest of the world appreciate the diversity and beauty of the African Continent.

      Slavery represents a level of human cruelity that is hard to understand and the brutality went on in so many place for so long. I intend to visit Cape Coast Castle in a year or so and God help me to handle the horrors that this place represents.

      I hope that people do not forget that slavery also took place in East and Centra Africa and that these people in captivity were taken all around the world to grow surgar, tea and cotton, fight wars and build the infrastructure of much of europe

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