Cape Coast Castle, Inner Courtyard, Ghana, 1986 (1)

Most historians believe that Cape Coast Castle was originally built as a small trading lodge which was subsequently added to and enlarged until it became a fortification. In 1637 the lodge was occupied by the Dutch. Then, in 1652, it was captured by the Swedes, who named it Fort Carolusburg. For a time, both the local people and various European powers fought for and gained possession of the fort. Finally, in 1664, after a four-day battle, the fort was captured by the British and re-named Cape Coast Castle. The Castle served as the seat of the British administration in the then Gold Coast (Ghana) until the administration was moved to Christianborg Castle in Accra on March 19,1877.

Slaves were kept at Cape Coast Castle in dungeons while awaiting transport to the new world. Around 1000 male slaves and 500 female slaves occupied the castle at any one time in separate dungeons. Each slave would be locked up for 6 to 12 weeks, waiting for their turn to board one of the ships. The dungeons must have been unbearable  with hundreds of slaves crammed in together and no toilet facilities.  There were only a few windows to let in fresh air, and a channel down the middle to carry away urine and feces which completely covered the floor of the dungeons.

The nearby Elmina Castle, also a major European slave trade fort, was established 155 years earlier than Cape Coast Castle. The Portuguese built the castle of São Jorge da Mina in 1482, in a region rich in gold and ivory resources. Da Mina means 'of the mine' in Portuguese. The Castle is one of West Africa's oldest standing buildings; it was the first permanent structure south of the Sahara built by the Europeans.

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Last updated:  July 13, 2008      © 2007, 2008 Neil A. Frankel Contact: webmaster