slave castle


Of the dozens of trade castles and forts dotting Ghana’s three-hundred-mile coastline, I’d chosen to visit the one in Elmina because it was the most notorious. Being the first permanent European settlement in Africa, it was also the oldest. The Portuguese began construction on São Jorge da Mina in 1482 with stones imported from Portugal. It was designed to defend against attacks from the local people and from other Europeans, but in the seventeenth century it was captured by the Dutch. In the nineteenth century it was purchased by the British. Now it is a World Heritage monument. In the castle’s early days, Europeans didn’t think of themselves as European any more than Africans thought of themselves as African. The Dutch weren’t betraying a European bond when they captured the Portuguese castle, just as the Mandinke weren’t betraying an African bond when they captured Ayuba. Nor, in the castle’s early days, was the castle a slave castle.

more from Emily Raboteau at The Believer here.