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How do you sum up the history of the trans-atlantic slave trade

As part of a college class I took on Corporate Social Responsibility, we spent two weeks touring parts of Ghana. We started in Accra before heading to the coast.

Between visits with a Coca Cola factory, government agencies, village elders, and even an HIV/Aids clinic, there were many memorable moments of the trip.

But perhaps, the one that continues to be imprinted in my memory was a visit to Elmina Castle, one of the departure points for individuals being sent across the Atlantic as slaves.

A window at Elmina Castle overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. For some, the last view before being boarded on a slave ship.

It is sobering to walk through the castle, reminded of the history that transpired on that very land. The lives that were stripped of ownership, the dreams that were cast away.

As we tour the premises, I notice that even now those who work at the castle and the accompanying museum struggle to make peace with this history.

There is acknowledgement, there is sadness, even space for reflection. But there is also so much that remains to be unpacked. How do we work through so many years of imposed trauma? How do we sum up in exhibits or two minute descriptions what the magnitude of this place, the institutions that overtook it, was?

I left that castle, moved but still uneasy. My mind filled with questions. Were the exhibits alluding to the slave trade intentionally kept short? Why was there no formal memorial? What other purposes was this castle used for, has been used for still?

And yet, walking out onto the terrace and gazing at the ocean ahead, I felt a sort of haunting peace. Knowing that though there was so much work ahead, at least these four walls no longer held people captive.

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