Monday, April 4, 2011

[ Cape Coast Slave Castle ]*



While in Africa, we had the opportunity to visit Cape Coast Slave Castle.  And I have to tell you, it was one of the best and worst places I have ever visited.

"Best", because I love learning about and visiting historical places.

Actually, David and I both love history.  Well, David has grown to love history.  When we first met in college, I wouldn't say he loved it.  Have you heard him tell the story about having Western Civilizations together our first semester of college?

Me=front & center, notebooks filled with every word from our professor's mouth and tape recorder recording just in case I missed a nugget.
(Nerd Alert)

David=backrow, sometimes asleep, most of the time probably scanning the room for ladies.   (Let's be honest.)

For our first huge exam he and I studied together all night.  We studied the same material and used the same methods for the same amount of time.

Our test scores: 100 & 53.

For some reason, after the test results, he still wanted to be friends.

(Probably to cheat off my next test.)


Where was I? Oh yes, Cape Coast Castle in Africa.

So it was a "best" because of the history.  I love seeing history in person and really getting a small glimpse into what it was like.

"Worst" because there are some parts of history that when you see it in person and really get a small glimpse into what it was like, it turns your stomach.

And this place had my stomach in knots all day.

The exterior of the castle was beautiful.  And it seemed to echo a past beauty that I can only imagine as magnificent back in the day. 

But what you find hidden beneath the beautiful architecture is appalling.



Beneath the spacious ocean-view rooms, are two dungeons that once held other humans, being stored as cargo.

Humans who had been kidnapped from their villages. Or had been sold to buyers by enemy tribes. Or who had been sold by their own families in exchange for weapons.

1 gun for a woman and 2 guns for a man.  Children were freebies.


The word "dungeon" almost seems romantic for what these places really were.  Hell hole is the best way I know how to describe them.  And I mean that in all seriousness.  The only ventilation was one small slit in the wall about the size of a checkbook.  Because there is no window, the air was stale and there was no ventilation at all.  I was lightheaded most of the time and that was with about 8 other people in the room.  I cannot imagine sharing minimal uncirculated air with so many more. 

Because of the darkness, we were barely able to see a few feet in front of us.  The inability to see creates such a sense of uneasiness in and of itself.  The space was small and cramped and we were told that each room held about 150 people. All I can figure is that people just literally laid on top of one another, because there was not enough room for people to stand shoulder to shoulder to one another in that amount of space.

And we can only assume the exorbitant amounts of human waste they were standing in.
When the dungeons were excavated, the human waste was over 3 feet high.

Excrement 3 feet high.

***

After experiencing the nightmare of the dungeons, we moved on to the prison cell. 

As if the dungeons were not punishment enough.

There was not one single hint of light in this place. Complete darkness.  The slaves who misbehaved or attempted escape or whatever else that the guards did not approve were thrown into this place, without food or water, and the door was locked. . .

Until they died.

And even after they died, their bodies were not even removed.  They were left to rot alongside the prisoners who were still "living". (If you could call it that.)

Understandably, most of the prisoners went insane.

There were gashes in the walls and floor where men and women repeatedly drug their jaw bones back and forth, back and forth along the stone, in a futile attempt to end their lives (and suffering) early.

***


But can I tell you the most horrific part for me?

While men, women and children were living in 3 feet of excrement, oftentimes naked, in a suffocatingly crowded space, with no air or light, often starving, the men who brought them there (and would leave with them to sell them as property) were in the room directly above them. . .

Worshipping God.

The photo below is the church building:


Beneath those stairs is where the slaves were kept.

That is something my brain cannot reconcile.  My mind can't even imagine it being true.  Or to be honest, my mind doesn't want to admit that people could do that to other people.

And not think twice about it.

But they did.

They were not merely turning a blind eye to something someone else was doing.  They were singing praises to the Lord, reading His Word and watching their "possessions" through a slit in the floor.

How could they do that?

***

In his book, Radical, David Platt makes this startling connection:


Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day.  That's nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch.

More than twenty-six thousand children today will breathe their last breath due to starvation or a preventable disease.

We look back on slave-owning churchgoers of 150 years ago and ask, "How could they have treated their fellow human beings that way?" I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at Christians in America today and ask, "How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they did not have food and water.  How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn't even exist?"

I don't know about you, but that put my stomach in knots again.


4 comments:

The Family said...

amazing. in a "that's horrific" kind of way...

Melia said...

I just can't even put into words how this post makes me feel. But I will say that I am thankful that you put it into words and put it out there for all the world to see it and think on it. More people need to know the truth about things like this.

Paige Brock said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this! The first step is for people to pop their little bubbles, recognize the problem, and then turn their knowledge into action. It's stories like this that start the process.

Emily said...

So thankful you posted this, perspective. You have a way with words, keep on writing.

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