Global Programs
May 2017 Field ​Study
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Elan Moore


Élan Moore

Aggie Law Class of 2018

Land Use Conflicts and Access to Justice

by Élan Moore
Ghana Elmina

Taking a break from the courtrooms and law offices, we boarded the bus at 5am to travel six hours to Elmina.  The ride was bumpy, to say the least.  We had to drive through smaller villages from Accra (the capital city) to Elmina. There were unforgiving speed bumps less than a mile apart from the time we got out of Accra to Elmina.

Elmina is a coastal town and one of the largest slave ports in West Africa. As we grew closer to our destination, we opened the shades on the windows to see the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on our left. A scan across the horizon revealed our destination: Elmina. It stands white and glowing on the oceanfront, a pillar of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

As we drove towards the entrance attempting to locate a place to park, hawkers, wanting to make a quick sale, immediately approached the van. To them this was just a tourist site where they could make a quick buck.

To me Elmina was much more.

Ghana ElminaWe were able to walk inside of the slave dungeons. Each dungeon was separated by sex. These rooms held 400 women and 600 men totaling 1000 captured slaves at a time. The rooms were dark and stuffy, with low-hanging ceilings. The only natural light and ventilation entering the rooms came from tiny openings high above our heads. The thought of 400 to 600 people packed into the dark tight space was disturbing and unnerving. In that space humans were packed.

Ghana Elmina female dungeonThe women’s dungeon was held closest to the captain’s quarters, as he would take his pick from amongst the women. Any woman who refused his advances was held in an underground compartment and made to lie there in the direct sun with the door and latch closed atop her. Others were made to stand in the sun for several days chained to a cannonball. These punishments were used as a means of “breaking” the will of the captured slaves.

Ghana Elmina
Ghana Elmina cannonball

As a descendant of slaves, I took this visit quite personally. Though I had been to this very place before, this visit was different.

At that time, I remember being moved only by anger. Anger that a place that housed so much pain, defilement, and grief was still standing.

Ghana Elmina Elan MooreThis time I was sorrowful.

I simply touched the walls inside of the dungeon and it was as if the walls held stories never told by people with no voice. I was walking and standing in the space that began and assisted in continuation of the turmoil that my ancestors had to endure as slaves in America.

This experience will remain with me for many years to come.
Ghana Elmina