Project Wisdom Itinerary

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Read: “Slavery's long effects on Africa” by Will Ross (BBC News)

Read: “Sons for Sale” by Sarah Left

Read: “Hershey Accused Of Using Cocoa Suppliers That Employ Child Labor” by Tom Hals

Read: Challenging Heights: About Us

Task: Make a video documentary for our American history classes at Heritage High. You have an amazing opportunity to show them the other side of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We will need note takers, commentary writers, photographers, camera crew

Reflect: On everything you learned and saw today.

Discuss: On the beach!

Castle Tours: Painful Trips to the Past


ELMINA, Ghana — The centuries-old stench of mold and human waste still rises in the small cell with a narrow, barred door that opens to the harbor--the last spot where African slaves touched the continent before being shipped to the Americas.

Eugene Vickerson, a 53-year-old retired real estate salesman from Atlanta, peered into the gloomy dungeon lit only by a narrow ray of sunlight slanting through the notorious Door of No Return. "I cried yesterday when I visited some of the other places, so today I'm doing pretty well," he said with a rueful smile.

Last week, Vickerson became one of a growing number of black Americans who come to see St. George's Castle and others among the 30 forts along Ghana's coast that once warehoused millions of Africans sold into slavery. "I am just overwhelmed with emotions," he said. "It is all so much more real when you see this."

Historians now estimate that 60 million Africans were captured as slaves in West Africa between 1503, when the first slave purchase was recorded here, until the commerce finally withered in the 1850s. Only one in three slaves survived imprisonment in castles like this and the voyage across the ocean, meaning about 40 million people died in captivity over about 350 years.

Portuguese traders were the first Europeans to venture along West Africa's coast in search of gold and ivory. Finding gold available from tribes in this region, they named it Elmina--the mine--and began building the castle in 1482 to store their goods between visits by trading ships. The Roman Catholic chapel within its walls is the oldest Christian church in Africa outside Ethiopia, according to published histories of the fort.

By 1600, with Europeans in the Caribbean and North America seeking cheap labor, the fort's dank storerooms were holding African captives as well as other goods.

Clifford Ashun, a guide here, said that about 20,000 foreigners visit the castle each year. Vickerson, who came to Elmina with Ghanaian friends, said he was the last of his circle of African American friends to make the pilgrimage to the slave castles. "It was something I felt I had to do," he said.

"It is my first time here physically, although I have been here many times before in my mind," said Vickerson, who studied African history in college in the 1960s. "My overwhelming sense is that the racial question still exists, the oppression continues. Not that much has changed; that is what is so sad. We know bad things happened and there was terrible suffering, but it continues in different forms, in different times."elmina-castle-1.jpg

Even restored and empty, the cramped cells--their air damp and stale--still seem to carry the smell of the thousands of men and women who lived and died inside. Often, several thousand at a time were jammed into the cells and fed once a day. There was no toilet or any way to bathe. Men, held separately from women, were chained together.

The captives stayed an average of three months while awaiting the ship that would take the survivors to the New World. Any who rebelled risked being locked in the Cell of the Condemned to starve, their bodies thrown into the sea as a warning to others. If more than one person was in the cell, the room would not be emptied until all had died, according to Ashun and published histories.

When a ship arrived, the captives were taken in groups toward the cell over the harbor, with its Door of No Return. In the next-to-last room, a fire burned, heating the branding irons that the slave traders pressed into the flesh of the African men for identification. Weak from disease, more died here.

The European soldiers and artisans lived over the slave quarters, and the fort's officers on floors above. From his apartment on the fourth floor, the fort's governor enjoyed not just a spectacular view of the sea and a constant breeze that kept the stench away, but also a private balcony that overlooked the courtyard of the female slaves. From there he pointed out the women with whom he wanted to have sex. Those chosen were bathed in the courtyard, then taken to his chambers by a private stairway. If the woman was later found to be pregnant, she was freed and lived in a special house in the town. At the age of 3, her child was taken from her to be educated by priests and trained in a profession.elmina_slave_castle.jpg

Because of the lucrative trade in slaves and gold, Elmina became coveted by other world powers, and in 1636 Dutch troops captured it with the help of local tribes, who believed the Dutch promises that they would not trade in slaves.

Instead, the Dutch strengthened the fort, converted the church into a large slave-trading hall and expanded the trade. In 1872, with the gold depleted and the slave trade banned, the Dutch sold St. George's to the British, who were consolidating the colony they called the Gold Coast.

Now, as a historic site, the fort should draw not only Africans and African Americans, but also whites, Vickerson said. "In the 1960s, we always said that history is not just for the oppressed but for the oppressor," he said. "That is still true today."

Slavery's long effects on Africa

By Will Ross (BBC News)

Between the 15th and 19th Centuries, it is estimated that up to 20m Africans were forced onto European slave ships and taken across the Atlantic.

Two hundred years after the British parliament voted to abolish the trade, the effects on Africa are still being felt.

Head to a village in northern Ghana or indeed many villages in West Africa and at times you might wonder what century you are in. Even though Ghana has achieved impressive growth rates in recent years, the scene in many rural areas appears to have changed little with grass thatched mud walled huts. There is often no electricity and yes, the water is collected in plastic containers these days but it is still quite an effort to fetch it.

'A very long effect' 
The Ghanaian historian and lawyer, Mohamed Shaibu Abdulai, says Africa's loss of millions of the strongest men and women during the slave trade is one reason for this underdevelopment.

"The slave trade actually prevented the coming into being of an agrarian revolution in Ghana, and likewise an industrial revolution. Because before you can industrialise you need to have stable agricultural production. So slavery has a very long effect."slave-trade.jpg

Some estimate that without slavery the population of Africa would have been double the 25m it had reached by 1850.

"During slavery many of the able-bodied people, between 18 and 40, were taken out so society's ability to reproduce itself economically, socially and culturally was impaired," says Zagba Oyortey a Ghanaian cultural historian.

Gold or slaves? 
Another legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade was the fuelling of conflicts and long lasting rifts between communities which in some cases remain.

The European demand for slaves provided a lucrative business for the African slave raiders in the interior. Many of the slaves were prisoners of war, and enslaving an enemy soon became a motive for going to war.

"European traders found it hard to get slaves during times of peace. However, when there was war, gold was scarce and slaves were widely available," says Doctor Akosua Adoma Perbi, the head of the history department at Ghana's Legon University.

"One traveller wrote in his memoirs that in 1681 he had got only eight slaves after combing the whole of Ghana's coast from west to east. But when he asked why that was, he was told the people were at peace.

So warfare was a major source of slaves.

'A bit suppressed' 
"The devastation left by the slave trade, and the absence of able-bodied people, made it easy for European powers to move in and colonise. Africa's ability to defend itself was seriously compromised," says Zagba Oyortey a Ghanaian cultural historian.

There has also been an impact on African culture.

To mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, the South African musician Hugh Masekela, recently performed inside Elmina slave fort alongside musicians from Britain, the Caribbean and across Africa.

He says there is a need for African culture to be revived seeing as it was looked down upon and discouraged for so long.

"Africa is the only society which imitates other cultures. In other parts of the world culture is put at the forefront every day. But we only do it at ceremonies," Masekela says.

Many young Ghanaians do not study their own history in any great depth as the subject is optional at secondary schools.

"The history of slavery should be taught in order for people to understand the effect it has had and continues to have," says Elizabeth Ama Asare who has taught history at Accra's Labone Secondary School for many years.

"Even today black people feel a bit suppressed when we come into contact with the whites and that is an effect of slave trade. It has put us in a second class position which shouldn't be so."

Sons for Sale

As the world marks the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade, Sarah Left says Ghanaian boys as young as four are still being sold as cheap labour

Thursday 22 March 2007 09.08 EDT by Sarah Left

Kofi Azadavor is sitting stiffly on a bench under a mango tree on his family's compound, getting up every so often to tend the fire in the open-air kitchen. He looks smart in his school uniform of brown shorts and a blue-and-white checked shirt, but both school and family life are still fairly new experiences for the 10-year-old.kofi and favour azadavor

Kofi only returned home to his village near Sogakope, a small town in south-eastern Ghana, in June. When he was just four years old, his mother sent him and his older brother, Mawuta, to live with their uncle in a fishing town 250km away. It was the end of Kofi's childhood and the start of his life as a slave.

Kofi explains that while living with his uncle, he and Mawuta would get up very early in the morning, wash dishes and sweep the house, then head straight out onto Lake Volta to fish. They would spend the day casting out the heavy fishing net and checking for the catch.

When the net snagged on the branches and stumps at the bottom of the lake, Mawuta was made to dive into water to untangle it. It was a dangerous and delicate task, and the boys' risked drowning, contracting the disease bilharzia, and, if they damaged the net while setting it free, a beating from their master.

"My uncle would beat us sometimes," Kofi says. "If he said we should go to fish or farm and we said we were too tired, then he would beat us." When asked if he likes his uncle, Kofi just silently shakes his head.

This Sunday marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act, an event being commemorated in Ghana at Elmina castle, the country's most notorious slave trading fort, and in a series of events around the UK.

But across Ghana, and most stubbornly in fishing communities on Lake Volta, Ghanaian children are still being sold for as little as 200,000 cedis (£12) into a life of forced labour, malnutrition, physical abuse and no schooling.

Raymond Tchia was seven when his future master woke him from his bed and took him away to a life of fishing and diving into the deep water to untangle nets. Raymond lived in a one-room mud hut with 20 other boys and says they were fed only one meal a day. Now 17, Raymond was released only two months ago. He has never been to school before now.

"I did not enjoy living with that man. The man uses force. When I was young, I was very scared, so if I was to dive into the water and was afraid, he would beat me," Raymond says.

The International Organisation for Migration has rescued 612 trafficked children from Lake Volta since 2002, and it estimates that there are hundreds, and possibly thousands, more trafficked children still fishing on the lake.

Hershey Accused Of Using Cocoa Suppliers That Employ Child Labor

Reuters  |  Posted: 11/01/2012 6:56 pm EDT  |  Updated: 01/23/2014 6:58 pm EST - By Tom Hals

Nov 1 (Reuters) - The Hershey Co should turn over records that could reveal the leading U.S. chocolate maker violated federal child trafficking laws by using cocoa from West Africa, according to a lawsuit filed by a public pension fund.

The lawsuit by the Louisiana Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System, a Hershey shareholder, seeks documents which could determine if the candymaker knew its suppliers in Ghana and Ivory Coast used child labor.

"By producing chocolate at its Pennsylvania factory that is the product of child and forced labor in West Africa, Hershey has flouted domestic and foreign law and placed at risk its century old brand and reputation," said the complaint.

The lawsuit was filed in the Court of Chancery in Delaware, where the Hershey, Pennsylvania-based company is incorporated.A 2011 study by Tulane University found that 1.8 million children in the Ivory Coast and Ghana work in the cocoa industry and that the vast majority of them are unpaid. The study also found evidence of child-trafficking, forced labor and other violations of internationally accepted labor practices….hershey child labor
Challenging Heights: About Us


Challenging Heights; mission is to ensure a secured, protected and dignified future and life for children and youth by promoting their rights, education, and health.

We deliver social justice interventions to children, women, and underserved communities in the coastal and farming communities of Ghana. This includes rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of children who have been trafficked in the fishing industry, as well as creating community awareness on these issues in order to prevent trafficking and re-trafficking of children. Challenging Heights also contributes to policy and awareness creation and the public discourse on issues affecting Ghanaian children. Additionally, the organization runs a school for more than 700 children who are survivors of child trafficking or who are at-risk of child trafficking.


Challenging Heights was formed in 2003 and registered in 2005 by James Kofi Annan, to give back to children who faced challenges similar to his. At six, James was forced to work along the Volta Lake for seven cumulative years.

James later rose to become a university graduate and also rose to become manager at Barclays Bank of Ghana. He is the last and the only educated out of twelve children of his illiterate parents. In 2007 James resigned from his employment with Barclays bank to dedicate attention to the mission of Challenging Heights.

The mission of CH is to ensure a secured, protected and dignified future and life for children and youth by promoting their rights, education and health.

Challenging Heights (CH) aims to protect and improve the lives of young people and their communities affected by child trafficking and the worst forms of child labor. The organisation believes education and the economic empowerment of women are the most important things for eliminating child slavery. Our work suggests that if children are educated, then they will know their rights, and the chances of them being forced into labor will decrease.

Lesson 14 – Service-Learning Projects (2)

“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” 
 Martin Luther King Jr.

Read: Just the quote above.

Task: Continue to work with your group to come up with a viable service-learning project.

Reflect: How is the service-learning project going? What difficulties are you facing?

Discuss: Service-learning project group time.


Lesson 15 – Service-Learning Projects (3)

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

Read: Just the quote above.

Task: Continue to work with your group to come up with a viable service-learning project.

Reflect: It’s your last night in Ghana! Provide a digital reflection on your time spent in Ghana.

Discuss: Ghana and America; Ghana Scavenger Hunt results.

ghana black and white.jpg

Lesson 16 - Presentations

We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us.

Read: Adinkra Symbols

Task: Groups will present their service-learning projects after lunch.

Task: Please fill out the post-survey and reflection on the next page. Tear it out of the packet and give it to us. We will use this to shape and mold the program going forward.

Reflect: Obviously!

Discussion: Presentations and Certificates

adinkra wisdom.jpg

Self Evaluation: Post-Ghana

Directions: Answer the first 10 questions by indicating whether you agree (10), disagree (1), or fall somewhere in between.

  1. I would be confident taking a leadership role to solve a difficult problem.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I am comfortable in any environment.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I am interested in learning a new language.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I am interested in learning about new cultures.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I am interested in studying abroad in college.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I am interested in a career that would allow me to help solve global issues.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I believe young people can make a difference in the world.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I know how to make a difference in the world.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I appreciate my own culture and upbringing.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. I value my education.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Tell us about your best memory from your time in Ghana.


What improvements would you make to the overall program?


Did you find the Project Wisdom Packet helpful? What changes would you make?


What have you gained from your experiences in Ghana?


Six Word Summary

Using no more and no less than six words, summarize your trip to Ghana with Project Wisdom. Example: We came: we saw; we served. Feel free to use your artistic abilities to add more meaning to your summary.

Adinkra Symbols

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