Vice President Kamala Harris visited Cape Coast Castle Tuesday as part of her trip to Ghana, which will be followed by visits to Tanzania and Zambia. Cape Coast Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the place where thousands of enslaved people passed through the “Door of No Return.”
After an emotional tour of the fort with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, where she laid a wreath in one of the dungeons where female captives had been held, she gave a speech addressing the history of enslavement and stated, her voice filled with the emotion of the moment, “The horror of what happened here must always be remembered.”
NPR’s Deepa Shivaram reported:
Vice President Harris wiped away tears as she toured the dungeons of Ghana's Cape Coast slave castle on Tuesday, and said the experience underscored that the history of enslaved people must be taught and remembered.
Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff spent about an hour at the site, and passed through the Door of No Return, known as the final step before those who were kidnapped were forced onto ships to be transported across the Atlantic Ocean. ...
Kwesi Blankson guided Harris and Emhoff on their tour. He told reporters that it was a solemn moment. "I told her about the dungeons and women especially, how they held in the dungeons and how they looked up through the holes to and pray to the sky god for redemption and how some of them sang," Blankson said, adding that he sang one of the songs for Harris that was about the problems of life.
I was pleased to see that The New York Times White House correspondent Zolan Kanno-Youngs covered it as well:
The vice president leaned into her heritage during a three-nation trip to Africa to strengthen U.S. relations on the continent.
“This continent, of course, has a special significance for me personally, as the first Black vice president,” said Ms. Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and a Black Jamaican father. “And this is a history, like many of us, that I learned as a young child: stories, cultures and traditions passed down from generations.”
A former prosecutor, Ms. Harris often analyzes each word of the drafts of her speeches, aides say, in an effort to inform audiences about legal precedents and policy implications. On Tuesday at the slave port, however, she delivered rare unscripted remarks, according to officials from her office.
Here is the White House video and transcript of her remarks.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, being here was—was immensely powerful and moving, when we think about how human beings were treated by the hundreds of thousands in this very place that we now stand, the crimes that happened here, the blood that was shed here.
There are dungeons here where human beings were kept—men, women, and children. They were kidnapped from their homes. They were transported hundreds of miles from their homes, not really sure where they were headed. And they came to this place of horror—some to die, many to starve and be tortured, women to be raped—before they were then forcibly taken on a journey thousands of miles from their home to be sold by so-called merchants and taken to the Americas, to the Caribbean to be an enslaved people.
We don’t know the numbers who died on their way to this place, the numbers who were killed during that passage on the Atlantic. The horror of what happened here must always be remembered. It cannot be denied. It must be taught. History must be learned.
And we must then be guided by what we know also to be the history of those who survived in the Americas, in the Caribbean—those who proudly declare themselves to be the diaspora who then came out of—in, often, many situations—odds that were designed to break them, to demoralize them, to—create systems and situations that were to make them feel like less than humans, less than full human beings.
But yet, they survived. And they tell another history—a history of endurance, a history of faith, a history in believing what is possible, a history not only that tells about the ability that each individual has to survive, but to thrive.
And so, all these stories must be told. All these stories must be told in a way that we take from this place—the pain we all feel, the anguish that reeks from this place. And we then carry the knowledge that we have may gained here toward the work that we do in lifting up all people, in recognizing the struggles of all people, of fighting for, as the walls of this place talk about, justice and freedom for all people, human rights for all people.
So, that’s what I take from being here. The descendants of the people who walked through that door were strong people, proud people, people of deep faith; people who loved their families, their traditions, their culture, and carried that innate being with them through all of these periods; went on to fight for civil rights, fight for justice in the United States of America and around the world.
And all of us, regardless of your background, have benefited from their struggle and their fight for freedom and for justice.
As a descendant of people who were forced through those doors, I say, “Thank you, Madame Vice President.”
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