Africa

Harrowing search for ancestors at Cape Coast Castle

Updated 8:29 AM ET, Fri January 31, 2014
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Duwon Steven Clark stares out to the Atlantic from Cape Coast Castle --one of more than two dozen slave "castles" along the coast of what is now Ghana. David Gurien/CNN
Clark (foreground right, in white shirt) listens to the tour guide explain the life of the slaves imprisoned at Cape Coast Castle. The Swedes built the first fort on the site. It was later held by the Dutch, and then the British, who carried out the slave trade from there. The present castle is the result of extensive British renovations in the late 1700s. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN
Clark closes his eyes as he contemplates the Condemned Cell, where resistant slaves were put to die. The small room has only one entrance secured by three locking doors to prevent escape and lock out all light. There are no windows, and those imprisoned there were given no food, water, clothing or sanitary facilities. It is not known how many died there. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN
A view into the walking tunnel, where slaves were walked from the dungeons to the Door of No Return. They only surfaced briefly, to walk through the door and on to a waiting ship, where they were taken to the Americas. About 40% of the slaves died. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN
Clark examines original cannonballs, stacked near the defense cannons at Cape Coast Castle. The Dutch considered the castle, with its high, thick walls and fierce guns impossible to capture, even though they occupied Elmina castle just a few kilometers away. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN
Clark looks at one of the four graves on the patio of the castle. One grave belongs to a British soldier shot by the Dutch, two more to a commander and his wife, and the last to the first black pastor of the Anglican Church. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN
Gifts line the walls on the women's dungeon. The guide says they are left by descendents of slaves who have come back to understand their ancestors' enslavement, and to honor their them. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN
The castle's church was built directly above the men's dungeons. The guide says the prisoners may have been able to hear the prayers and songs seeking down through the stone. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN
The view from the window of the commander's suite. Periodically, he would order the female slaves brought to a courtyard, where from a walkway above, he would select one as a mistress. If the mistress became pregnant, she would be given special quarters and medical attention, and after giving birth, she and her child would be sent to a home in town. Being the son of the commander, the child would be free. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN
Fishing boats on the beach outside the Door of No Return. SUSAN LEDFORD/CNN