A FEW centuries ago the African slave trade thrived at the European-built castles and forts clustered on Ghana’s southern coast. Africans were taken to one of the many slave forts that could be found along the coastline, where they would wait to be transported by ship to the Americas. Held in the most deplorable of conditions, they would languish in these dungeons, sometimes for months, waiting for slave ships to come and collect them.
These forts, many of which still stand, were built by the politically and economically dominant European nations of the period: Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, and England.
Visitors generally make a two-day trip to the castles along the coastal highway that connects Accra, Ghana’s capital, with Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa’s most impressive metropolis.
Popular Slave Forts
The following castles and slave forts are listed in order of their closeness to Accra on the highway leading west:
- Fort Good Hope, in the town of Senya Beraku.
- Leydsaemheyt, at Apam (now a guesthouse with barebones facilities costing $1.50 a night).
- Cape Coast Castle, at Cape Coast.
- St. George’s Castle, at Elmina.
- Fort Coenraadsburg, also at Elmina.
- Fort St. Sebastian, at Shama.
- Fort Batensteyn, at Butri.
- Fort Metal Cross, at Dixcove (also a guesthouse for low-budget travelers only).
- Fort St. Anthony, at Axim.
- Fort Apollonia, at Beyin. Food and Lodgings
- In Ghana’s coastal region, hotels generally are also the best restaurants.
Elmina is a city in Coastal Plain region of Ghana. Its name comes from the Portuguese word for “Mine”. The gold found in these mines are also the origin of the name “Gold Coast”, which was the name of what is now Ghana when it was a British Colony.
Cape Coast Castle
In 1664, Cape Coast Castle became the headquarters in Africa of the entire English/British involvement in the transatlantic trafficking of Africans. The castle itself was like a small city. It had its own postal service, connected to other forts along the coast. Its guns protected ships from armed attack by Britain’s enemies as nations involved in the slave trade were constantly playing out commercial and political rivalries along that coast.