For the many thousands of people who were dragged into servitude through the Atlantic surf from Elmina this fort was their last link to African continent. The stones of the rough slave quarters and the passage through the gate of no return leak sadness.
Consigned in sweetly evil trade. Enslaved, diseased, murdered. The deep bears witness. These also will come forth. The Lord will judge with equity. (Revelation 20.13)
My memory of Elmina comes from a privileged visit to Ghana aged five. I am glad I saw it as a child. Somehow the solemnity and shimmering sense of evil persists through the primary colours of childhood memories. Elmina and other relics of the trade in slaves cry ‘remember’ in the face of continuing conditions of servitude around the world and the rise of totalitarian regimes and populist politics.
The consignments of slaves for profit from Africa to the Caribbean and Americas across theMiddle Passage left The Atlantic as the grave of more than 1.8 million enslaved people . Their deaths resulted from negligence, disease, murder and usage of the sea. At times the mortality of embarked slaves was 60 per thousand, per month in transit .
Human life and civilisation is deeply bound to the ocean, Our ancestors risked so much to establish economic and cultural interchange. Across millennia we have salted the ocean with bones, but the scale of human life consigned to the deep waters during The Atlantic slave trade is exceptional, perhaps unique.
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
Whenever the end of memory is, the writer of Revelation is clear that the dead who are held in the custody of the ocean are not beyond God’s sight and care. The deaths cried out on the day of their dying against those who profited from their enslavement. I believe they still cry out against those who benefit today from corporations, endowments, investments and systems established at the time when slavery was too often accepted as necessary and no evil in the sight of God.
Consigned in sweetly evil trade.
Enslaved, diseased, murdered.
The deep bears witness.
These also will come forth.
The Lord will judge with equity.
Lovejoy, Paul E. “The Volume of the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Synthesis.” The Journal of African History 23, no. 4 (1982): 473-501. Accessed November 25, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/182037.
Cohn, Raymond L. “Deaths of Slaves in the Middle Passage.” The Journal of Economic History 45, no. 3 (1985): 685-92. Accessed November 25, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2121762.