There were many reasons why African men and women ended up as slaves: they may have been criminals, unrecoverable debt, loss of family or kin group, as a result of ethnic conflict, victims of religious crimes. Some people even gave themselves up willingly as slaves in order to escape famine or drought.
There were also many reason why slaves would be acquired: for human sacrifice, to produce heirs to childless couples, as a cheaper alternative to paying for a bona fida bride, as servants or soldiers and of course for export to Europe and the Americas.
Slaves were marched for days, weeks and even months from their villages, often in chains or shackles. They were fed as little food as the slave merchants could get away with, in order to keep them too weak to escape. Once they reached Cape Coast (or any of the other ‘handling areas’, they were kept imprisoned in darkness for weeks/months until shipped through the Door of No Return to board the ships bound for the New World. Having spent a few minutes in the dungeons, with a mere 15 people and the light on, I cannot even begin to imagine how humiliated, confused and disorientated the slaves must have felt, crowded in the darkness of the dungeons, not knowing what lay ahead of them.
More than 650,000 slaves are estimated to have been shipped from the Gold Coast until the international slave trade was banned in 1807.
Fishing is the main occupation for most of the people living in Cape Coast, and many travel far out to sea. Tuesday is the day that fishing nets are being mended as this day is considered taboo for fishing. There seemed to be quite a few boats grounded on the Sunday we were there too, but we also saw many boats returning to shore with their catch.
Sunday is obviously a great day for spending at the beach – as the coastline was full of young people having fun in and out of the water. Note how most Ghanaians go swimming fully clothed.