From July through December 2011, this is where I'll be. Here are the tales of my adventures!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Elmina Castle Reflection

I really felt the need to write about my experience at Elmina Castle more in depth than my other posts. We went there this past weekend and it was definitely a moving and very powerful trip.

I had no idea that this castle and even Ghana had such a huge role in slavery, thus again proving more and more of my ignorance and lack of historical knowledge of the place I chose to live in for half a year. Apparently the Portugese had set up Elmina Castle as their trading post in the 15th century. From there, all of the other European powers joined in. The Portugese began trading slaves and essentially started the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. It wasn't until the early 19th century when the Dutch, who had come to control the castle, abolished the slave trade in their colonies.

I vaguely remember learning about the slave trade in school when I was much younger, but it was always taught as simply another topic in history and that's definitely how I had always perceived it. It wasn't until I was actually in Elmina, standing in the very cells these people were forced to live and die in that I finally was able to better understand what slavery actually meant.

African people were separated from their loved ones and divided by gender. They were crammed into cells and cages with little ventilation or sunlight. They were given only enough food and water to stay alive. Because of this, they could barely even stand or move to the side of the cell designated for human waste. They ended up just eating, sleeping, living, and excreting all in the same few cramped feet of space they had until they were either marched in chains to the boats or died.

For those that made it to the boats, they were chained in pairs and jammed into rows in order to fit as many slaves as possible per trip. During the trip across the Atlantic, many died, became ill, went into labor, and much more, all while still being chained to another human being. Rarely did any of the European traders monitor or tend to the slaves below the deck so they would be forced to remain chained to the ill or dead for the entirety of the journey.

I think it's safe to assume that we all know what happened if they made it to land alive, but it was this aspect of slavery, the conditions before even being sold, that I had never properly conceptualized until now.

Our education system censors history when we teach it to young students and we allow them to grow up in a world still dictated by racial tensions of the past. Clearly we've come a long way since the 1400s, but it is obvious by the prejudice, parochialism, distortion and censorship that we see in our media and society today that tells us we still have a long way to go.

I can only hope that we as a race continue to progress through the years and finally recognize that the color of someone's skin is by n o means a justification for treating them any differently than anyone else, nor is their religion, orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic status.

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