In the middle of the 17e century, the transatlantic slave trade began and involved the buying, selling and transporting of human beings from the shores of Africa to plantations in Europe and America. Ghana was among the African countries that saw their natives sold into slavery to work on plantations overseas.
Slave markets were plentiful at the time and the Assin Manso Ancestral Slave River known as the Nnonkonsuo or Donkor Nsuo (singular) was one of them. The Slave River served as the last bathing place for slaves before they were sent to the Cape Coast or Elmina Castle to enter the door of no return into the life of the unknown in the West.
The Slave River is located forty (40) kilometers along the Cape Coast-Kumasi highway in the central region of Ghana. It served as the last stop on the slave trade route originating in northern Ghana. Before being driven to the slave strongholds of Elmina and Cape Coast along the coast, the slaves took their last bath on African soil at the Assin Manso slave river site. One of the largest slave markets of the 18th century, the place was called the “great depot” where the Asantes sent slaves to shore. Here, the slaves received food and enjoyed several days or weeks of respite.
At the time, slaves brought from the North and the Ashanti region were housed at the site and then transported to the dungeons of Cape Coast Castle or Elmina Castle.
When the appointed time draws near, the slaves are led to the Gate of No Return where they say a final goodbye and catch a glimpse of what Ghana (then Gold Coast) was like for the last time before entering the ships to the far west.
Due to the reburial of two slave ancestors in 1998 as part of an Emancipation Day ritual (one from Jamaica and one from the United States), Assin Manso has once again been placed in the historical imagination of the African Diaspora.
Today, the river now offers “Le Premier Bain du Retour” for tourists who travel to see it. The bath is a symbol of spiritual purification, forgiveness and connection with the ancestors.
The door of no return
Cape Coast Castle, opened in 1653 and originally built by the Swedes, was one of many forts and castles built by the West in Ghana and used to house slaves as well as conduct the daily administration of the colony.
One of the many iconic sites at Cape Coast Castle is the Gate of No Return. The Gate of No Return was the exit point for slaves forced aboard slave ships to the United States of America. It is located just beyond the women’s dungeons at the base of the central courtyard.
The gate, which is not exactly large, led out to sea where ships sat and waited like natives, some sold as slaves, others handpicked by colonial masters were forced through the gates of the waiting ships.
They moved in line with chains and colts and assuming they made it out alive, that would be the last time they would see their home country and continent.
The ship’s gate was given the name “gate of no return” because it was the last exit point for slaves. Once a slave walked through that door, that was the end of it. There would be no going back.
Transport of slaves
A typical transport of slaves from Ghana to the West would see slaves being picked from the Northern Region, Ashanti Region and dropped off at the Assin Manso Slave River where the slaves have their final bath and have some respite before the journey continues.
From there they are transported to Cape Coast Castle or Elmina Castle where they are kept in dungeons. Finally, they are forced to board slave ships through the door of no return.
Today, the river where slaves took their last bath has become a tourist site for locals and black people from all over the world who come to seek ancestral connections and better understand their roots.
New to the Ancestral River is the Ancestral Wall which allows tourists to register their name as having also visited the site.
For the full experience, some tour guides suggest the Assin Manso Slave River as a prelude to the Cape Coast or Elmina Castle, not only to give tourists an understanding of this part of history, but for tourists experience a semblance of travel. their ancestors took .
In 2019, the Year of Return saw many black people from the Diaspora travel to Ghana to discover and be part of history.
The Assin Manso Slave River and the Gate of No Return continue to be pillars of history that can never be forgotten and which for a long time will bring black people together around the world.