Saturday, July 11, 2009


Researched through various sources, primarily the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
He has addressed the nation as an American. He has addressed the Muslim world as a former Muslim. And today, he has addressed the African country of Ghana as a black man of African heritage. Today, Barack Obama received a huge welcome from the African country evidenced by posters and billboards stating "welcome home."
Ghana has always been a favorite stop for American Presidents, as their government most resembles American style democracy. During he brief speech, Obama praised their form of government, and promised them the support of America whenever possible.
As important as his visit to Ghana may be (although a brief 22 hours), Obamas most poignant visit will be this afternoon to the former slave holding "factory" of Gold Coast Castle.
Originally built as a fort by the Swedes for their timber and mineral exportation, and then taken over by the Dutch before the English wrestled it away from them, the history of Cape Coast Castle remains the focal point of this coastal city.
The castles exit to the beach, known as the door of no return, for more than 100 years opened to the certainty of a short and brutal life for the millions of Africans that were captured off these shores and sold into slavery, which now opens to the serene and awesome vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.
The beach beyond the notorious exit door at Cape Coast Castle, which was the main British hub of the transatlantic slave trade in West Africa from 1665 to 1807, is now lined with an extensive slum of wooden shacks and colonial-era brick buildings covered with tin roofs.
Its black cannons and mortars are still strategically placed on a concrete deck facing the ocean and on the rooftops of its towers on each side of the three-story main building. The brick courtyard of the castle, which Ghanaians commonly refer to as Cape Coast Dungeon, has two 18-foot water wells and four graves.
The Obamas are expected to enter two of the dungeon's men's chambers at the front of the castle. The first one on the tour is where the strongest men were held together and the last one has a hole in the wall. The hole leads into a deep and dark tunnel system that was used to takes slaves underneath the castle's courtyard, leading them to the "door of no return." The strongest ones were separated during branding, when hot iron rods were used to mark their chests, and then chained and shackled together in the first chamber.
At any given three-month period, the castle held 1,000 men and 300 women. The men were confined in groups of 200 per chamber roughly the size of a 30-by-15-foot holding cell before they were shipped to America, the Caribbean and elsewhere. Any slave who challenged the authorities was thrown into the condemned cell, which held 50 in a room no bigger than most walk-in closets. There, they would die deprived of food, water, light and oxygen, clawing the brick walls and floors as they suffocated.
Clearly, the Obama visit to the castle will have a profound effect on the President, and symbolically, the continent of Africa, as well as the United States, especially its black community. Whether President Obama will address the media after his visit to the castle is unclear, but sufficed to say, his mere presence will speak volumes to the world as the castle represents a regrettable portion of American history to say the very least.

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