The Door of No Return; Lost Ancestry

In New York City, there is an African Burial Ground National Monument that represents a sacred space where both free and enslaved Africans were buried. At a point in time, this sacred space in Manhattan was lost to history due to landfill and development, but rediscovered in the 1990’s. Between 1991 and 1992, about 419 sets of human remains were exhumed and used for scientific research. Unfortunately many of the human remains couldn’t be identified or traced back to a name/person. During summer 2017, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Ghana and visit the Cape Coast Castle. This is one of the most famous “castles” (dungeon) in Ghana’s dark era of slavery. At this slave dungeon, both men and women were held under terrible living conditions before begin shipped off across the Atlantic, never to return again.

What I found interesting about both the African Burial Ground National Monument and the Cape Coast Castle is that both had a “door of no return.” This symbolizes the exit and for many, the lat place they saw before being shipped out, no longer to return to their homeland. When I think of the “door of no return,” I also think about a loss of heritage and ancestry. During my stay in Ghana, many Ghanaians were still interested in learning about this dark period in their country. Many still cling onto the fact that their ancestors suffered through these harsh periods and horrors of slave trade. The people who died during these dark times likely had relatives that couldn’t help them and weren’t notified of their deaths. At both sites, there are hundreds of African Americans who died and weren’t properly identified, leaving unanswered questions as to who they are and whom they are related to. It is important for many to understand that these sites serve as a strong reminder of a dark past and continue to pay respect to the millions of people who languished at the hands of slavers. Although we don’t know the exact names of the people who died, they’ll never be forgotten for all the hardships they faced during these dark periods in history.


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