Tracing the history of Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle where Africans walked through the infamous “door of no return” directly in to the slave ships to cross the Atlantic Oceans sold into slavery, and never to set foot on their homelands again, evokes sad and horrific memories.

Historical evidence shows that with the opening of European plantations in the 1500s, it suddenly expanded the demand for slaves in the Americas and some parts of Western Europe.

“Most of the Africans who were enslaved were captured in battles, raids or were kidnapped, though some were sold into slavery for debt or as punishment. The captives were marched to the coast, often enduring long journeys of weeks or even months, shackled to one another. At the coast they were imprisoned in large stone forts, built by European trading companies, or in smaller wooden compounds like bulls in cages” said the Kenyan historical scholar, Prof. Bethwell Ogot.

Cape Coast Castle Photo: Maarten van der Bent/Flickr

When the ships docked at the Cape Coast Castle from Europe they were laden with trade goods. Captains offered gifts to local African leaders and paid taxes for the right to trade. They then began the serious business of barter and exchange of a wide variety of trade goods such as textiles, firearms, alcohol, beads, manilas and cowries, and after agreement, slaves were commanded to the “door of no return” to board the awaiting ships.

From the “door of no return” to the “door of return”

Millions of Africans passed through Ghana on their way to be enslaved in United States, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean.  After many years, that has changed from the “door of no return” to “door of return”.

Only Way Out Dungeon, Cape Coast Castle, Ghana. Photo: Andrew Moore/Flickr

Read: Slavery in Africa still alive

Israel has used Christian historical sites to attract the world to come and visit cities such as Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ghana hopes to persuade the descendants of enslaved Africans to think of Africa as their homeland, to visit, invest, and educate their children in Ghana.

During the then U.S. president Barrack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to Ghana, they toured the Cape Coast Castle “door of no return” and visualized the agony of many Africans who went through at the Castle, where most gruesome images of the Slave Trade that saw millions of Africans forcibly moved across the Atlantic to the Americas and Europe to be sold to slave merchants.

Plaque to commemorate the Obama’s visit in 2009 to the slave castles. Nora Morgan/Flickr

The sad memories and gruesome memories linger on and the Cape Coast Castle remains a painful reminder of the past. However, the castle is also an opportunity to bring the Africans across the world back home.  “We want Africans everywhere, no matter where they live or how they got there, to see Ghana as their gateway home. We hope we can help bring the African family back together again.” said Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey Ghanaian tourism minister.

In 1957, Ghana became  the first sub-Saharan African nation to shake off its colonial rulers, winning its independence from Britain.