Monday, August 30, 2010

West African Slavery - examining the Slave Trade Today (Ghana)

Slavery Roots In West Africa

Slave auction sign, look closely
African Slavery
Whenever man can impose his will on other individuals for his own personal gain he rarely hesitates. Slavery, in its various forms, has existed since the dawn of civilization, coupled with the needed dehumanizing measures used by those with the physical power to help morally justify their actions.
The blueprint for a slave ship’s design labeled them as “cargo,” On plantations, slaves were often made to eat out the same troughs as animals, families were broken-up and auctioned off as objects, derogatory epitaphs like “N” word were developed, it was made a CRIME to educate slaves,
Many of my compatriots had very visceral reactions to what they saw and felt, so I am going to keep this blog entry less tongue in cheek than usual out of respect for their experience. My group here is 75% black and all but one are older than me. I do not know what it was like to grow up black in the United States, and many of them remember the civil rights era, when racism was obviously much more rampant than in my childhood.
Cape Coast harbor/many fishermen

canons pointing out to sea at the castle
Our first stop was “The Last Bath,” where slaves, having been forced marched 300 miles on foot, chained to one another, unable to move their arms to even protect themselves against a biting insect, were given their final bath on African soil, to bathe, still chained together (in case the slave you were chained to decided to drown himself you went with him), and were finally fed and made to exercise to regain some lost weight (higher market price) before being marched the final 30 miles to the Cape Coast Castle where they were sold, raped, killed, etc. and possibly then brought on a dungeon like ship to the America’s.

young Ghanians by the river

entrance to the river
The Gas Chamber of Africa
We then went as a group to visit Cape Coast Castle, the last place the enslaved would touch African soil. Lined with canons pointing out to sea, turrets, and dungeons, the castle served the dual functions of short term imprisonment and fortress.
For those uppity slaves who dared to choose to fight for their freedom, they were set usually set free because it is just too hard to deal with someone with such crazy ideas.
“Look at Vernon,” (likely not his real name, but who knows) the slave merchant would yell at the rest of the slaves while Vernon was shackled and lead away with spear tips pressed against his neck, rifles pointed at him from all directions, “For his exemplary behavior we have decided to set Vern free.”
And of course by “exemplary behavior” the slave master was sarcastically referring to Vernon sneezing in his (the slave master’s) presence and by free, he of course meant, “dead.”
So what would happen to Vern, and up to two hundred other damned souls at one time is they would be thrown into a cell with no light, no water, no ventilation, and no Internet, packed like sardines, unable to see their own hands, with temperatures inside easily exceeding one hundred degrees from all the body heat and the African climate, amidst sewage and decay from the previous group. Some would die in six hours, some would last two days breathing in the stench of the rapidly decomposing bodies around them before they too passed.
At least the Nazi’s made it quick.
I can tell you that I was in the gas chamber with the entire group, who comprised less than 100 people, and the door was closed and the light turned off. Many people let out a yelp of fear. It was exceedingly hot, and it would be very easy to feel claustrophobic as densely as we were packed. Now put more than double that number, and KNOW that you face Death.
Many cried. For their ancestors, for the energy of the room, from the thought of what it must have been like, from their own fears.

Parting Thoughts
Without a system of agreed upon morals, society could not survive. It would be difficult to justify enslaving a neighbor and an equal, so we skew these morals by re-framing the way we see other tribes/races/etc if it gives us a competitive survival advantage. It further separates the ego from the pure divine love that is innate inside all of us.
the last bath river


  1. Enlightening experience for sure, Rich ! One that I wouldn't want to experience "just because" ! I'm waiting for you to say "No Mas" and get your ass back to western civilization (Yep, rent and all)and back to those 6'4 - 6'7" Black dudes at the Sports club, which cause you to always utter the phrases "What am I suppose to do ? I can't stop that !" ;)

  2. Take out "at least the nazis did it quickly"
    Kind of insensitive to those who did die in those chambers quickly or not Rich.


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