There’s a giant white castle perched on a hill on the coast of Ghana in Africa.
A fishing village flanks one side, a rocky cliff the other.
The waves slam against the well-worn rock so loudly and violently it portends revenge.
It’s as if the mighty Atlantic is angry; angry that these rocks, these cliffs and this place forced it to take part in cruelty so barbaric it’s hard to even imagine it happened.
But the trans-Atlantic slave trade did happen.
Most of it was facilitated from places like this up and down the African coast – fortresses, dungeons really, where slaves were corralled for months in small, dark, brick rooms, 200 to a thousand at a time, shackled with no room to lay down, left standing or squatting in their own human waste.
Upwards of 12 million slaves were shipped out of similar African facilities.
Just a few days ago, as part of a series for CNN and Ancestry.com, my mother and I visited Cape Coast Castle.
When we walked down the steep, dark tunnel into the slave dungeons we both said to each other it felt like descending into hell, or worse.
Worse because life is not supposed to be hell.
Worse because if the slaves did survive this they had a far worse journey ahead of them in a wooden, floating hell hole en route to another living hell of which they had no idea, America, the new world.
Today, at the foot of the castle, through what is called the ‘door of no return’, where slaves were forced onto ships, children – beautiful black African children – play soccer on the beach and surf on homemade surfboards.
They are poor.
But they are happy.
They are free.
Yet as some of them would glance over at us, they must have wondered why the black visitors from America, land of plenty, who appeared to have everything, were crying.
Don Lemon Traces His Roots – Where Will It Take Him? was originally published on blackamericaweb.com