America's African heritage; 6
You were saying something about a ghost that haunts the place. Yes we have a pet ghost is rather nothing but old gentleman and old Portuguese God who comes and talks to the children. He hasn't much time for the grown ups and doesn't want to be the friendly ghost or very friendly indeed. There's nobody in the National Association of educational broadcasters presents America's African heritage recorded in Africa by Skip West 12 program six slave dungeons I don't mind I castle. Here is Kip Westfall. That sound you hear is the rar of the way that you are on the shores of God on the west coast of Africa. In the distance we can see a beautiful sight. The white wall of Elmina Castle gleaming in the sun. Long rows of stately palm
trees surround the castle and to my right extending as far as the eye can see. By the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. On the long green hill side approaching the castle. Fishermen have strung out their nets. I should have said their net for there is only one. They appear to be mending it. This is the largest fishing net I've ever seen. It extends from the castle down the gently sloping green hillside for a distance of at least half a mile. Imagine a fish net. A half a mile long. I'm sitting in the shade of a palm tree with my tape recorder admiring this peaceful scene. The White Castle is shady as the waves of the ocean lapping the shore make such a beautiful picture that it's difficult to imagine the misery and the heartache which once existed behind those walls. But we'll get to that story in a moment. First I would like to briefly describe to you our trip out here from the port a Thai karate.
As soon as our ship docked in Takoradi I got in touch with a taxi driver Joel they call him. He's a friend of the chief engineer on our ship. He told me that on the way out to this castle we would pass through a grove of coquetry. I decided that although we had only a few hours in port here was an opportunity I couldn't miss for I've been eager to get whatever information I can about the story behind our chocolate malted milk the candy bars the chocolate drinks and the many ways in which we Americans use cocoa. This important product by the way is not native to Africa. It came originally from South America but now the country of gun until recently known as the Gold Coast is the chief area in the world for the code of a public local treat. Our visit to this cocoa plantation however was a bit disappointing. Due to a lack of rain the crop here this season has been very poor and there is not much harvesting going on. But we did get to see some cocoa trees. In fact I had a
rather humorous experience in getting out to the first cocoa Grove. Our driver stopped his car beside the road near a little village where we were told that we would have quite a long walk to get to the Brant. We followed a winding path through the woods. A man from a village by the name of Samuel leading the way. At one point we came to a brook where there was no bridge only two slender bamboo poles to walk on. I was rather amused at the expression my driver used after he had crossed the stream. Easy does it. He said as he motioned for me to follow. We came to a small area where there were a few trees from which the cocoa had not been picked. The cocoa pod is ready in color about the size of a large egg. Our guide Samuel explained that one of the problems of the cocoa harvest is the poisonous snakes. Quite often he said the workers are bitten by these snakes. Occasionally their bite is fatal. But if they can get to the native village
doctor in time they will not die from the bite. Their doctor has a medicine made from the leaf of a tree and the juice from this leaf is very effective in treating snakebite. I hope it won't spoil your next cup of cocoa to know that it probably came from an area which is infested with poisonous snakes. When I return to the village we came again to the little stream. My driver this time quite confident in himself started to cross over saying Do as I do you just gotten the words out of his mouth when he lost his balance and stepped into the water almost up to his knee. As he was wearing shoes and socks and trousers he was quite disgusted with himself at that point Samuel. A big strapping lad who by the way was very flattered and very like and decided I needed some assistance so he picked me up in his arms like a man carrying his bride over the threshold and carried me over the street. And thanks to my friend Samuel I have arrived here at the
castle with dry feet and eager to make a tour of this famous old building. This castle was built by the Portuguese in 49 hundred to 11 years before Columbus discovered America. Ten years we should say. In sixteen thirty seven it was captured by the Dutch. Two hundred fifteen years later the British took over. So it has changed hands several times since it was built. Four hundred seventy seven years ago. But instead of my going into a lengthy account of the history of this place why don't we go inside the building is now being used as a police headquarters and I'm sure we can find someone who will supply us with more interesting information than I am able to give. So we will continue the recording inside the castle wall. We are speaking to you today from an underground dungeon.
On the San Giorgio Domina Castle which is located about 40 miles east of chi karate in gun formerly known as the Gold Coast. This castle is particularly famous for the fact that at one time slaves were kept here before shipment abroad in these very dungeons from which we are speaking today and we're very fortunate today to have as our guide Mr. Robert Armstrong. What is your work here Mr. Armstrong. I'm the officer commanding the deck one training school began the police it's a minute and you're in charge of the place in this district. That's correct. Now this dungeon where we are now was one of the places where the slaves were kept Is that right. That is correct and what slaves in particular and female slaves were kept in this place and the children with them I'm going to move the children to us. And this courtyard we see through the bars was a place where they were up to
not read is correct and now I'm going to go on. You lifted a heavy trap door and showed us a flight of stairs leading down into another dungeon which of the slaves were kept there with a special group. Yes these are very select few minutes slaves who were kept for the benefit of the governor and the staff of the castle and the Dutch town. Why were they considered to be the select play and as much they were better looking physically and in every other way. The most beautiful women then were kept in a separate room from the others and is correct. Were they treated better do you suppose. Do I assume they were. Then where were the men Capistrano the men were kept in a special building in the south of the main courtyard. And from where we had a good option. And later moved down. Into the bottom dungeon where we are speaking now.
Yes well now this this dungeon through which the slaves were taken before they were shipped is a damp dark places in that there are bats there. I noticed their bats on the ceiling very much so with far too many and all of the Slayers were taken through this underground passage and from there right down into the boat. Yes that is correct yes. To the ships. Have you any information about how long the slaves were usually kept in this place. I understood up anything up to three months and how many were here at a time. Do you know. Perhaps up to three hundred. Who are the main buyers of these players. The French British and Americans and I understand it was usually the ship's captains who actually did the buying. That is correct to act as agents for the plantation owners. Have you any other interesting bit of information you could give us Mr Armstrong about this same discussion or perhaps this might be of interest to American listeners to know that this place was Bruton 14:00 nature to you by the
Portuguese who came direct from Portugal creditor bricks with them and amongst the captains of the caravan I was bringing the stuff was Christopher Columbus. Christopher Columbus was here he was here etc.. Unfortunately Well you were saying something about. A ghost that haunts the place. Yes we have our own pet ghost is rather nothing but old gentleman old Portuguese God who comes and talks to the children. He hasn't much time for the grown ups is rather sad and doesn't want to be the friendly ghost very friendly indeed as it does nobody any harm. But Mr. Armstrong has been very interesting for me getting this information about this famous castle. I wish we had the time to spend the whole day air but as you know our ship is is in the harbor over Tucker I think and we've got to get back there within a very short time. We're going to miss the boat so we let it be on our way. Thank you very much for this interesting information.
Thank you. As our genial host leaves for duties elsewhere in the building we'll conclude our story about the castle with several brief comments. In our interview we neglected to call attention to one rather interesting story in the courtyard above on either side of the entrance to the long room where the men slaves were kept. Two small rooms about the size of a telephone booth in each room is a narrow slit in the wall which would permit the prospective slave buyers to observe the slaves without their knowledge. This would give the buyer some idea of how much he might be willing to pay for this way before the auction began. As we look about this damp dungeon. We try to visualize what the place must have looked like in those days. We try to imagine the sights and the sounds and the smells of those dreadful days when hundreds of miserable slaves
were imprisoned here beside the wall along one side of this room. We see a deep ditch in the stone floor that was used as a sewer. A strange feeling comes over me when I realize. That on this very spot where I am kneeling before my microphone wailing mothers with their babies once now out to pray for deliverance and mingle with the crying of the children and the sobbing of the mothers who had been separated from their husbands and sons could no doubt be heard the sad songs of the sway from which have come our beautiful. Negro spirituals. Among the sounds which could be heard in this dreadful place where the bats still cling to the ceiling where the cranking of the chains of the shouts of the slave drivers and the crack of the slave drivers with its difficult to visualize what these unfortunate people actually looked like naked beaten and bruised.
We do know that hundreds of thousands of the slave driven like beasts from the jungles died before they reach the coast. Makes us feel a bit ashamed that so-called Christian America was one of the three countries most responsible for the slave drive. We think of the remark of Robert Burns man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands more. The story we've told here today has a real significance to our modern America. Because from this very place came the forefathers of men like George Washington Carver. And other great Negro scientists philosophers poets and musicians who have contributed so much to our American culture. I suppose we might also say that because of the things which happened here there came into the life of our nation the great Abraham Lincoln who has become such an important part of our American heritage. Now let's move over a little
closer to that. Hole in the wall through which men women and children once made their weary way down to the boats which were waiting to take them aboard the dreaded slave ships. You're here. You're. Part. Of the America. Which was to be. There. This has been program six of America's African heritage. These programs feature recordings made by world traveler skip Westfall on a recent trip to Africa. The
- America's African heritage
- Episode Number
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 4909 (University of Maryland)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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