Does Ghana Still Need Its Slave Castles?

Thank God for Mr. Swan’s African American Studies class in the 12th grade circa 2004. It truly inspired me to learn more about Ghana’s rich history, the good AND the bad. The discussion of Cape Coast Slave Castle came up right before we watched the film entitled Sankofa.

sankofa film-Cape coast  Slave Castle Ghana

The Cape Coast opening scene from the 1993 film.

The 1993 film starts with a scene in Cape Coast, Ghana. I will admit that I slept through the rest of this film after the Cape Coast scene. I know, shame on me but I am just going to blame it on senioritis. I was diagnosed with a severe case of it on the first day of 12th grade. As a result, it was hard for me to focus and I slept through some of my classes….lol However, I did watch Sankofa in its entirety almost 10 years later via You Tube. Unfortunately, I can’t link it because its since then been removed from You Tube.

Cape Coast Slave castle Ghana Amma Mama

My first trip to Cape Coast in 2006.

About a year and a half later after watching Sankofa, well that first scene I visited Cape Coast Castle for the first time. I discussed in this post here that up until Mr. Swan’s class, I never knew Ghana had slave castles. I didn’t know much about Ghana to be honest. Since this first trip in 2006 pictured above, I have visited the castle two more times. The third time was recently this past summer. I vlogged that entire visit here (or  play the video below).

I am sure I will go again in the future with friends or relatives who haven’t been there. Recently, I was watching one of my favorite Ghana vlogs for the umpteenth time from a fellow vlogger and fellow first generation Ghanaian Ruwaydah.  I found some of the comments below very interesting but this one took the cake and I had to respond immediately. See the conversation below.


The importance of slave castles in Ghana

Below is my rapid response.


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And then below is another comment separate from this comment thread above.

The importance of slave castles

 8 Reasons Why the Preservation of Ghana’s Slave Castles is Important

cape coast slave castle

Me in 2006 at Cape Coast Slave Castle.

  1. The Atlantic Slave trade is an important part of World History.
  2. We must LEARN from history so injustice does not repeat itself. My tour guide Kojo said the following in the video above (starting at mark 31:04), “Let us learn from what happened. The dungeons are empty, slavery has been abolished. But slavery is still happening in many forms. Today you hear of the child labors & human trafficking. Many, many forms of slavery. Let’s continue to fight against modern slavery.”
  3. Many people don’t ever truly learn about slave castles and the role it played in holding innocent people captive during the Atlantic Slave Trade. Speaking for myself, the Atlantic Slave Trade was sugar coated throughout ALL of my history and social studies classes throughout my education. I wasn’t truly educated until Mr. Swan’s African American Studies class in the 12th grade.
    cape coast slave castle ghana

    My 10 year old niece’s first time at Cape Coast Slave Castle. (2015)

  4. It’s a tourist attraction and museum that educates its visitors.
  5. As a result, it is profitable for Ghana’s economy and for Ghanaians who work there.
  6. It’s our duty as Ghanaians to tell the story of our ancestors. It’s still our history despite the tragedy of it all.
  7. It serves as a memorial that honors our ancestors. These slaves were humans with families. They were not animals or “cargo”. Their lives and existence need to be acknowledged.
  8. It CONNECTS those in the African Diaspora with Africa. Ghana has a lot to offer, more than just slave castles. However, for many living in the African Diaspora, the castles spark that initial interest that brings them to Ghana to learn more about their history and the Atlantic slave trade. It gives them a deeper understanding that can’t be attained from just reading a history book.

That’s all the reasons I can think of for now but I know this list will be updated!


The Name

Summer 2015 Cape Coast Dungeons

(2015) A view from inside the dungeon.

Then there is the issue of the name. A fellow Ghanaian commented on another vlog of mines asking me to change the title of my vlog Ghana 2015| Vlog #3: Cape Coast Slave Castle. Below is his comment.


Does Ghana Still Need Its Slave Castles?

He wanted me to remove the word “slave” from my title because it is hurtful to Ghanaians. Personally, I find it difficult to call it a “castle” because that makes it sound like something out of a Disney film and not the prison/death chamber that it really was. I would rather refer to it as a slave dungeon. However online, in textbooks and on Wikipedia, it’s referred to as “Cape Coast Castle”. I think it’s important for me to specify what kind of castle it was if I am going to call it a “castle”. Therefore, I will call it what it was, a slave castle. Let’s just be clear because this was not a fairy tale.

Sound Off:

  • Do you think Ghana still needs preserve the slave castles in Cape Coast and Elmina ?
  • Should they be torn down ?
  • What about the name “Cape Coast Castle”  or “Elmina Castle”?  Should the names be changed and if so to what?

PLEASE share your thoughts below. I want to hear your opinions on this subject.


Thanks for reading and have a very blessed week! 🙂

~Amma Mama

  • Aaya
    November 30, 2015

    This truly was an insightful post. Thanks for sharing bopz! I personally think that dungeons should be kept up and running in memory of our ancestors who endured the tragedy of the African Holocaust. And the name should be exactly what they are..dungeons. We currently live in a system of racism white supremacy that seeks to erase and/or “water down” anything that would shed light on a part of world history that should never be forgotten. In today’s times no one asks to remove the Hiroshima Peace Memorial or the many Holocaust museums or the 9/11 memorial but when it comes to our history and the experience of Black Africans now we’re expected to get over it and move on to something else. Do I think that the system of racism white supremacist traps Africans in one era of history to maintain and refine racism? Absolutely! But I also don’t think that the answer is to get rid of something as if it never existed. There should be more effort to discuss ALL of African history. Seems to me that the old adage of Bill Broozy still remains true if “you’re white you’re alright, if you’re brown stick around, if you’re black get back”. Or in other words no one really cares what happened to you so please stop reciting the same old stories over and over again.

    • ammamama
      December 1, 2015

      Great comment and well said. Thanks so much for weighing in Bopz. I agree 1,000 %

  • Milan
    December 2, 2015

    Really great and thought provoking post. This is the kind of reading I’m here for! I agree with so much of what you said. It is no different than the Holocaust Museum or the 9/11 Museum. It is a historical monument and a part of world history. I think they should stay.

    You also brought up a good point that it contributes to the Ghanaian economy. I agree with this as well. It is important that we [Africans and blacks that are products of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade] get to tell OUR stories. That’s like me telling the Incas and the Mayas what happened to them. White people, not all of them of course, like to erase things that don’t make them look or feel good and the fact is, the ish happened. This is world history. You were wrong as hell so just suck it up and own that, apologize and do better: treat people who don’ t look like you like human beings and how you would want to be treated. I feel that the intention behind these “castles” is to inspire us to not find ourselves in that place anymore and to do and be better ultimately. I think it also gives us perspective and to respect and appreciate our ancestors. That’s a LOT to have gone through and they endured all this without Instagram and selfie sticks from the slave ship to show to the world.

    Maybe they could change the “castle” part in the name though but then again, not all things pretty were happening in Medieval castles either. Those castles were filthy and germ infested! Lol.

    • ammamama
      December 7, 2015

      Thank you for weighing in Milan. I am glad you liked the post. You made some great points. I love this, “I feel that the intention behind these “castles” is to inspire us to not find ourselves in that place anymore and to do and be better ultimately.” So true, we must learn from the past in order to create a better future!

  • Whitney Q
    December 6, 2015

    I think it should still be called Elmina castle. And no it shouldn’t be torn down. It has so much history and people travel from all over to understand more of the history. It doesn’t represent Ghana as a whole but a key part of Ghana’s history. We should accept the good and the bad

    • ammamama
      December 7, 2015

      Yes people travel from all over the world just for a deeper understanding. And your right it doesn’t define Ghana but it’s still very important. Thanks so much for weighing in Whitney!

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