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Ghanaians Celebrate the Day Slavery Ended - 2004-08-01


Ghana is celebrating Emancipation Day, commemorating the end of slavery. The Ministry of Tourism has spent a year mapping out the slave trade route, to enable visitors to retrace the path followed by slaves from Africa to America.

Emancipation Day began in the British West Indies when the British parliament abolished slavery in 1834.

The tourism ministry estimates between 30,000-40,000 African-Americans visit Ghana every year, to trace their heritage, and learn more about the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Tourism Minister Jake Obeisebi says the history of slavery is still relevant.

"We really feel the story of slavery has never been told, has been allowed to quietly die out, as it were. And it must not be allowed to die out, because slavery is still going on today," he said. "We need to refresh it, and keep it fresh in our minds, to stop it from continuing, or happening again."

He says the slave route identifies the forced movement of Africans to America. Visitors to Ghana can now tour former slave markets, where natives were hunted and taken prisoner, as well as the slave fort where they were held in preparation for the treacherous ocean journey, and the river where they were bathed before being put on the ships.

Mr. Obeisebi says the slave route is more than just a tourist attraction for visitors.

"We don't want to look upon them as tourists coming back," he said. "We do want to be the gateway to the homeland for them to come back, because we have been taught, as Africans, to be self-loathing, to loathe everything about ourselves, our blackness and about our continent.

"There are Africans in the Diaspora that have visions that Africa is full of people living in trees, and full of ugliness," continued Mr. Obeisebi. "So we really do want to try to bring them back to really see what Africa is, and to reconnect with the homeland."

Later this month, the Ministry of Tourism is sponsoring a conference, in which scholars from around the world will present papers on the slave trade and its African heritage.