Cape Coast Castle {slave fort} in Ghana

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We spent the majority of our family trip to Ghana in the Accra area where my parents live, but we took a little 2 days side trip down to the Cape Coast (3 hour drive) where we also explored the Canopy walk above the trees.

Our first stop was the Cape Coast Castle as it’s known now, but long ago was used as a slave fort, which in my mind really isn’t synonymous with a castle. I was surprised at the reverence I felt there, and the sadness. I don’t usually have an easy time putting myself in the shoes of the people whom I’m learning about at historic type places, but for some reason, this spot was different.

Cape Coast Slave Fort in Ghana

It broke my heart to really understand how people were ripped from their families, by their own people, to be slaves.

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It pained me to see the inhumane, dark cells and to know that hundreds of people were thrown together for months at a time, awaiting the ships to take them off to another country to live in bondage. It angered me to realize that people thought all of that was ok. My husband and I both expressed later our pensive state as we walked throughout the fort, humbled to think of our blessings in life, and the thought of the agony that would ensue if our family was ripped apart by such atrocities.

Here is what I wrote on Instagram right after our visit:

European traders built the Cape Coast Castle on the edge of Ghana, originally to trade timber and gold, but was eventually used for slave trading. Africans turned against their own to “sell” their neighbors to the Europeans, who then sold them to the Caribbean and the America’s beginning in mid 1600’s through 1800’s. As we toured this structure last week, and learned of the inhumane conditions such as underground dungeons that both men and women endured (crammed for weeks) BEFORE being traded, we were overcome with deep sadness at the idea that anyone thought that was okay. Michelle Obama and her family visited here a few years ago, as her ancestors left Africa from this very spot. I hope my kids were able to grasp the solemness of this landmark, and how tragic this part of history is for all of the world, as each continent was involved in one way or another.

Here is a picture of a map I took while looking through the museum part of the fort

slave trading map

This shows how people from different regions of Africa were shipped to varying parts of the world.

Our tour guide did a great job of storytelling
Cape Coast Ghana Fort Just steps outside of the castle were fisherman prepping for the days catch

fishing boat on cape coast

Ghana fisherman

fisherman in Ghana

fisherman in cape coast ghana

We went upstairs to the officers quarters, which boasted plenty of space and a gorgeous view of the ocean, while their captives were held in dungeons below.

Ghana Slave Fort

Cape Coast Ghana

My husband noticed a group speaking French, and as they walked by, he said, “Bonjour” to which they honed in on him, and struck up a lengthy conversation in French.

speaking french in cape coast

I love to watch him speaking French, and so do the kids. He lived there for 2 years as a missionary before we met. Pretty sure it shocked the french speaking Africans we met along the way, too. (Sidenote: I love my daughter’s french braid)

We parted ways, then later, they wanted to take a group picture of all of us, so my mom snapped with my camera, while their female friend (that wasn’t there originally chatting) snapped with their camera.

New friends in Ghana

I shared this funny story on Instagram:

Met these guys from Togo at one of our stops–students also touring Ghana. They enjoyed speaking French with my husband, and English with the rest of us. (Such friendly happy people) After a while of chatting, they wanted a group picture. Just after this shot, they each wanted an individual shot with me–ha ha! I was kinda oblivious/confused at first, but my husband and boys claim to just be pawns in their ultimate goal. Whatever–it all started with the French speaking! A similar situation happened with another group at the canopy walk. We definitely stick out when we walk in a group, and I’m sure my red hair is even more of an anomaly around here, but hey, I’ll take the admiration–I’m not getting any younger!

I didn’t want to leave that cute girl out, so I snapped a shot of the two of us (also to deflect the awkward-ness of her taking an individual shot of me with each of the guys)

ghana friend

After our history lesson at the castle, we drove through town, and I loved seeing how this coastal town was so different from the city we’d been in. I snapped pictures of the fruit stands that lined the roads, complete with straw tents.

ghana fruit stands

fresh fruit in Ghana

…even noticed they sell fresh meat all ready to eat, just like a drive thru. (See that animal all skinned, cooked, and prepped on a stick)Ghana road side sales

One of my favorite scenes was the fishermans boats carved out of wood. We saw lots of people actively carving the boats, and saw many prepping to go into the ocean before the big catch.
fishing boat in ghana

See the men on the right, actively carving

crafting fisherman boats in Ghana

Below, men are prepping their boats to go fish for the day.

beach in cape coast ghana

Cape Coast was gorgeous, a different feel than Accra, for sure, but just as lovely and kind as we’ve come to know in Ghana.

To see more of our Ghana adventures, see my main post about our family travel, and there you’ll find links to all the other posts.

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Comments

  1. This is really touching. I know you’re trying to be sensitive (and you’re doing a remarkable job), I feel it’s neccessary to point out that while Ghanans did turn each other in to be slaves. Slavery at that time was very comon but the general idea of slavery was vastly different than the version we had in the states. Slaves were more like indentured servants (still not good, but not the version of racialized slavery in the US as we know it). I think it’s really amazing that you were able and willing to go and share this experience with your kids. I think it’s really important that we know the tragic history of how the world more or less conspired to rob a continent. I’m guessing this topic is too sensitive and that’s why I’m the only one commenting. But it’s ok (beter than ok!) to discuss sensitve and uncomfortable things sometimes.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I appreciate you weighing in, Nicole! I think that as a “job” in ones own country is one thing, but so heartbreaking to go unwillingly to a whole other continent. Yes, definitely a heavier topic!

  2. so cool!! I know that y’all will never forget this trip!

  3. Definitely food for thought. Great pictures as always!