In the present day Elmina, Ghana, formerly known as Gold Coast, is the Elmina Castle. It was erected by the Portuguese in 1482 and originally called St. George of the Mine.Originally built to be the trading post on the Gulf of Guinea, it is the oldest European building in existence in West Africa.
The castle would go on to be used as an important route in the Atlantic Slave Trade in the 1500s and later seized from the Portuguese by the Dutch in 1637, who continued the slave trade. In 1872, the Dutch Gold Coast, including the fort, became a possession of the British Empire.
Britain granted the Gold Coast its independence in 1957, and control of the castle was transferred to the nation formed out of the colony, present-day Ghana. Today Elmina Castle is a popular historical site, and was a major filming location for Werner Herzog’s 1987 drama film Cobra Verde. The castle is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Portuguese though were the first European visit the Gold Coast, they were not exactly the first to get there. During the seventeenth century, most of the trade that went on in West Africa was slave trade. Men and women captured from all over West Africa were transported to Elmina Castle and from there sold to Portuguese traders in exchange for goods such as textiles and horses. The slaves would be held captive before being taken through the “Door Of No Return”, transported and resold in Brazil and other Portuguese colonies.
The living conditions of these slaves in the castle were terrible and a sharp contrast from the living quarters of the Europeans whose quarters were spacious and airy and also had the beautiful view of the sea. The slaves were mostly kept in dark dirty dungeons in the castle and could be left there for three months before the journey to the New World.
After the Dutch took over the castle from the Portuguese, they continued the triangular Atlantic slave route until 1814, when slave trade was abolished, pursuant to the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. In 1872 the British took over the Dutch territory.
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