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A trip to Cape Coast: Contemplating slavery past and present

Standing in the dungeon at Cape Coast Castle, the guide explained how the floors used to be brick. What we were standing on was hundreds of years of human excrement, periodically covered up with sand and eventually packed down until it was a solid surface. Men and women were brought on a forced march from the interior of West Africa to the forts along the coast. They languished, shackled to each other in these dark, damp dungeons for weeks or months, 1,000 men in space barely big enough for a few hundred, with a shared bucket for a bathroom. They could hear the sounds of the Europeans (Dutch, Portuguese, British, Swedish, depending on the time/place) going about their daily lives in the castle above them. The governor's bedroom at Cape Coast was two floors up from the dungeon, with nearly as much space for him as for all of them.

Those that survived were eventually marched through a tunnel to the door of no return, which led them straight to the boats that would put them on the s…

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