In Celebration of Black History Month:
Less – known participating nations in the trans-Atlantic
By: Godwin Yirenkyi
AFTER her return from a tour of the Cape Coast Castle recently l asked a Chilean journalist whether there are black people in her country, that is, descendants of the many African slaves who were taken there during the period of the trans-Atlantic slave trade as is the case in other South American countries.
She answered no, apart from occasional visitors, adding that Chile never took part in that abominable trade. I showed her references to the contrary that slaves were taken there and she was surprised and admitted how the revelation had changed her perspective because she had learned from all the books on the slave trade that it was Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Britain that were involved in it.
This shot introduction is one reason behind the multi-national initiative led by UNESCO for more research and education to be done on the story to break a long silence surrounding the sordid story to pave way for total healing, reconciliation and peace.
For even though you will not find forts and castles (infamous for their use as stations for the trafficking of African captives for use as slaves in the Americas between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries) belonging to nations like France, Spain and the United States on the Ghanaian coast where most of these relics are found in Africa, historical records show that these nations, and other shown in this article were nevertheless, active participants in the slave trade.
Though contemporary historians say that the Portuguese were the first to discover Ghana (and named it the then Gold Coast) in 1471, French historians claim their travelers were the first to have arrived in 1383, and founded two short-lived settlements, Petit Paris and Petit Dieppe along the western coast as well as built a lodge at Takoradi. They say that the French trade had ended by the time the Portuguese arrived but until 1872 when Britain formally colonized the Gold Coast the French navy never stopped foraging along the coast.
In fact, one corner of Elmina Castle is known to bear an inscription said to have been overlooked by the Portuguese builders. The place is still called the Bastion de France; another proof of their earlier presence in the country though the Ivory Coast became their stronghold later
Fort William at Anomabu, for example, started as a French trading post in 1751 but was captured two years later by the British. In retaliation, according to the Ghanaian historian Carl Reindorf, the French bombarded Cape Coast Castle and seized it from the British to “gain access to the gold and slave trade”. In 1779 they captured Fort Orange, Sekondi, from the British but left soon afterwards. The French are also believed to have established a small fort at Amoku, 10 kilometres east of Anomabu on land purchased for 450 ounces of gold then stayed at Christiansborg for some years and probably built a trading station at Ada that lasted for some time. France became the fourth largest slave trading nation and Nantes, in the Bay of Biscay became the slave trade capital just as Liverpool won disrepute as England’s slave trade capital.
Until the late 1700s the Spaniards, who started the trans-Atlantic slave trade with the Portuguese and later became the main buyers of slaves in the Americas, obtained their supplies from other Europeans without coming to West Africa.
Early records indicate that they traded for sometime at Arguin in modern Mauritania in the 15th century. But the nearest that Spain ever came to settling in the former Gold Coast was in 1756 when the Danes sent an agent, Prof. Moldenhauer, to Madrid to negotiate, unsuccessfully, the exchange of their fort at Ada on the Volta River for the Spanish Crab Island, also known as Bisque, in the West Indies. By 1830, the Spaniards were visiting the country during the governorship of Captain George Maclean, and one of the charges brought against the governor by his opponents during investigations into his activities was that he allowed Spanish slavers to buy provisions on the coast. Records too show that in 1848, the British warship Kingfisher and an American cruiser Yorktown attached the last slave training station run by the Spaniards at Cess River, in Liberia, and freed 3,000 captives.
Due to the name change, people often forget that the Brandenburgs were the Germans, who in 1683 built Ft. Groot Fredericksbury at Princess Town, and two other lodges at Akwida (1685) and Takrama (1687). Brandenbury was the name of East Germany before it was united with neighbouring provinces to become Germany. In the 17th century they took over a Spanish station at Arguin in Senegal and were also present at Whydah, Benin for sometime. However, the full extent of German involvement in the slave trade in West Africa and the Americas is not known. At one time they tried to acquire a part of the Virgin Islands, but Togo and Cameroon became the main centres of their activities in West Africa.
Virtually unknown among the European slave traders of west Africa were the Courlanders, a small Germanic nation (population 200,000) situated in the present day Republic of Latvia in the Baltics. The Courlanders built a small fort on St Andrews Island (James Island) in the Gambia in 1652 and colonized Tobago in the 17th century and established sugar, cotton and rum plantations with about 7,000 slaves. The British seized James Island in 1661.
§ Elmina Castle, built by Portugal, 1842
It is not known how far Brazil which received the largest number of slaves participated in slave buying since most documents of the slave trade were purposely burnt in that country. But one Brazilian slave trader called Cossar Corquila Lima was known to have established a large trading post at Vodza, near Keta. After his death is 1862, his domestic slave and agent who inherited him renamed himself Geraldo Lima, married his wives and continued with the trade, causing much trouble with the Adas and their Danish allies. – To be contd. Next week
The Ghanaian Times, Page:15 Saturday, February 26, 2011.