Cape Coast Castle was one of the largest slave castles in Africa. I share original photography from inside both the castle and museum. I also share a little information on the terrible things that happened here throughout the slave trade.
When you enter Cape Coast Castle you’re welcome to visit the museum for as long as you wish. As well as the museum, you’re given a guided tour of this former slave castle.
Cape Coast Castle processed thousands of slaves therefore in the museum you can view original items used during this period. The slave shackles on display are an example of how badly slaves were treat. However, once you take the slave castle tour you’ll discover this is just one of the several examples of inhumane treatment.
Slave Branding Iron
All slaves which were processed at Cape Coast Castle would be branded with an iron. It would be heated red hot and used to scorch the back of newly captured slaves. Effectively, the branding iron would label / trademark slaves.
How Did Racism Begin?
There’s a picture in the museum which for me, sums up when racism began. European slave traders are shipping slaves to the Americas. All the slaves are in shackles, weak and clearly starving. In contrast, the Europeans are well dressed, look strong, clean and well groomed. It’s years of this behavior where the racism people talk about today began.
Male Dungeon – Entrance
Newly captured male slaves would be branded by a hot iron, shackled and placed in the male dungeon. They had no choice but to sit and wait for the next slave ship to come to port and take them to the Americas. This could take months.
Male Dungeon – Interior
The Slave dungeon is made up of 5 connected rooms which could hold hundreds of slaves at a time. There are no lights, little ventilation, no toilets or any other type of facilities. Slaves were shackled together in extremely cramped conditions just waiting for a slave ship. In fact, they probably didn’t even know what they were waiting for. Take a look at the floor in the picture above, which is clearly not stone but a strange looking surface. I was walking on the build up of feces, blood and dead bodies from the slave era. It’s very disturbing but if a slave needed the bathroom he had no choice but to go where he was chained up. If a slave died, his body would stay there until the next ship came in and they cleared the area. These were truly horrific condition, worse than you could ever imagine.
The female slave dungeon was not nearly as large as the male. I presume because they didn’t trade as many females. However, the female slaves were kept in largely the same conditions as the males. Europeans would barely give them enough food to keep them alive whilst they wait for the next slave ship to come to port. One additional danger the females slaves had was the threat of rape. Not from male slaves but from the Europeans. Female slaves had to go with their captors if requested. But what would happen if they refused? They would be put in the notorious slave prison cell.
If a slave disobeyed or rebelled against the Europeans in anyway he or she would be put into the prison cell.
Slave Prison Cell Interior
No slave ever came out of the prison cell alive. They were thrown in here and abandoned without food. What’s more, I expect if they’d upset the Europeans in some way they would have been severely beaten first. A word of warning before you enter this room, to this day it has a strong odor of death. Human scratch marks can also be seen on the wall. It’s a very disturbing room to visit now, let alone for the slaves who were locked up here.
Door of No Return
After waiting in the dungeons for weeks or months, slaves would eventually walk through the door of no return. When I say walk, I mean walk in the same shackles you saw in the Slave Museum. At the other side of the door of no return were small boats which would take them out to the slave ship. As some of the slaves had never seen the sea, let alone been in a boat, some would panic and capsize their boat. Thus drowning before they even made it to the ship. Finally, the slave ship would take them to the Americas.
Door of Return
Something which did not exist during the slave trade years was the Door of Return. However, several freed slaves did return to Monrovia and Freetown and I know in Freetown a monument for the returned slaves exists. This Door of Return has been created for anyone from the Americas who can trace their roots back to this castle. Maybe an ancestor of yours walked through the Door of No Return. Today, you can walk back through the Door of Return in honor of an ancestor.
President Obama visited Cape Coast Castle in 2009 and there’s a plaque commemorating his visit.
Large Dining Hall
Whilst the slaves were in the dungeons being given the bare minimum amount of food to survive, Europeans were indulging in large meals. Not only did the European’s have access to unlimited food but they also had space, luxury and lovely sea views.
European Living Quarters
The spacious rooms on the top floors are in stark contrast to the dungeons below. Not only were they spacious, airy with stunning views but they also have access to toilets.
The structure and purpose of this castle is really sad. As you view the surroundings, it becomes clear how beautiful this part of the world is.
Cape Coast Castle and Fort
The slave trade was a profitable business therefore the Europeans were also fighting with each other. Nearly all European nations were involved in the slave trade including, Portugal, Britain, France, Denmark and Sweden. For this reason, each slave castle needed protecting from other European enemies. What’s more, during the British colonial period, soldier training would go on here. So once the slave trade was over, Africans also lost their lives when they were dragged into the Europeans fighting during the world wars.
Learn the Truth and Respect the Cape Coast Castle History
In my experience, during the tour and museum visit I received an unbiased truth about what happened here during the slave trade era. There’s no place in Europe or the Americas where you can learn exactly how the slave trade worked with real life examples. It’s horrifying that you will walk on layers of eroded slave feces, blood and bodies. What’s equally horrifying is that you will see scratch marks made in desperation on the walls. This is all a result of what happened here over the years.
How to get to Cape Coast Castle
Cape Coast is a city about 90 minutes west of Accra. You can easily visit on a day trip from Accra. Simply take a Cape Coast bus from Accra STC station. This will likely drop you off at the road junction where you can easily return to Accra from. From the road junction, simply hail a taxi to Cape Coast Castle. Safe journey.