US Delegation at the 'door of no return' at the Cape Coast Castle where millions were shipped to a life of enslavement

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has travelled to Ghana in West Africa for events marking 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in America.

Pelosi’s delegation visited Ghana’s Cape Coast and Elmina Castles to observe the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans shipped to America.

Cape Coast Castle
Elmina Castle

In 1619, a ship arrived in an English settlement in what is now the US state of Virginia, carrying some 20 captured Africans.

It’s the first documented arrival of enslaved Africans in an area that would go on to become part of the United States.

They had been seized by English pirates off the coast of Mexico, from a Portuguese slave ship.

Many had died during the voyage because of the terrible conditions they endured.

The English pirates went on to sell the Africans they had seized to colonists in Virginia, who needed labour.

The US Congress has established a special commission to mark 400 years of African-American history this year.

Ms Pelosi’s delegation to Ghana includes senior black members of the Congress.

After visiting some of the sites from which enslaved people were shipped across the Atlantic, Ms Pelosi said it was “a sobering testament to humanity’s capacity for great evil.”

“Seeing the horror, inhumanity and cruelty of slavery first-hand was a profoundly transformative and humbling experience,” said Speaker Pelosi. “Solemnly, we walked through the ‘Door of No Return,’ reentering with a renewed sense of purpose to confront injustice, cruelty and oppression. While today was a reminder of a dark time in our history, it was also a beautiful recognition of the resilience, renewal and strength of Africans and African-Americans. We took comfort in walking through the ‘Door of Return’ in ‘The Year of Return.’”

At Elmina Castle, Paramount Chief Nana Kwadwo Conduah VI welcomed the delegation back home to Africa in a traditional ceremony. Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass offered the “amanee,” the delegation’s statement of purpose: to observe the longstanding bilateral relations between Ghana and the U.S. and honor the millions of Africans sent through the middle passage and later enslaved throughout the Americas after arriving in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.

Later in the day, Cape Coast Paramount Chief Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II welcomed the delegation to Emintsimadze Palace and Obama Hall. Congressman John Lewis, legendary civil rights leader and icon of the Congress, offered the “amanee”. Congressman Lewis shared the moving story of the impact of Ghana’s quest for independence and democracy on the civil rights movement in the United States.

The delegation laid wreaths at both dungeons in remembrance of the millions who lost their lives and freedom in the transatlantic slave trade.

Ghana has declared 2019 The Year of Return, with programmes aimed at encouraging people of African descent to visit and even settle.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, was in Jamestown, Virginia, this week to mark 400 years since the birth of representative democracy in the western hemisphere. He did note in a speech that it was also 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia.

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