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The Doors of No Return in the 'America I Am' exhibit

Dungeon doors from Ghana's Cape Coast Castle, where captive Africans awaited transport to the New World.
Dungeon doors from Ghana's Cape Coast Castle, where captive Africans awaited transport to the New World. (African American Museum In Philadelphia)
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Thursday, January 27, 2011; 11:47 AM

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORK

Toward the beginning of "America I Am: The African American Imprint," visitors walk through a set of doors that look like nothing more than a couple of rotting wooden slabs. This threshold has a more chilling history than meets the eye.

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The "Doors of No Return" come from the seaside Cape Coast Castle, a slave-trading fort in Ghana. Built in 1653 with the intended use of housing gold and timber for trading, the fortress turned into a site of human trafficking while under British control in the 1700s and 1800s. An underground dungeon housed as many as 1,000 men and boys and 500 female captives until slave ships arrived to transport the prisoners to the New World.

As these men and women prepared to embark on massive overcrowded boats, they would walk through these doors, a boundary that signified their loss of freedom and the final farewell to their African homeland.

- Stephanie Merry


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