Slave castles, African American activism and Ghana's memorial entrepreneurism

Brempong Osei-Tutu, Syracuse University


My dissertation examines the tensions sparked by the Ghanaian authorities. quest for increased national revenue through the restoration, memorialization and commodification of Cape Coast and Elmina castles, two Atlantic slavery entrepots, and African Americans. preference for preserving the same structures as sacred sites not to be desecrated. Rather than focusing solely on the buildings. slavery heritage as desired by most African Americans, Ghana's memorial enterprise sought to address that subject as a component of the structures. complex socioeconomic and political histories. While drawing increasing numbers of visitors to Ghana, the project also evoked strong reactions from African American pilgrims who perceived the Ghanaian initiative as Disneyfication of shrines and "whitewashing" of slavery. The differing visions resulted in a combative preservation landscape that produced several layers of complexity. The ensued difficult negotiations produced significant outcomes including increased visibility of Atlantic slavery in the Ghanaian landscape, a heightened transatlantic dialogue between Ghanaians and African Americans and a compromise that protected the castles from inappropriate uses.