Fort Prinzensteen (Danish: Prinsestein; English: Prince’s Rock) was one of four major Danish structures in Ghana. Built 1784 east of the Volta River in Keta, its purpose was defensive, designed to protect the area from competing colonial powers, and to serve as a bastion in the war against the Anlo Ewe. The town of Keta, the commercial capital of the thirty-six Anlo towns, was founded by Ewes who migrated from Togo.
As Danish influence waned and trade patterns altered, the fort became a dungeon for slaves awaiting transport to the Caribbean and the American Colonies. On 30 March 1850 all Danish Gold Coast Settlements were sold to Britain, and incorporated into the British Gold Coast.
The labor-intensive agriculture of the New World demanded a large workforce. Crops such as sugar cane, tobacco and cotton required an unlimited and inexpensive supply of strong backs to assure timely production for the European market. Slaves from Africa offered the solution.
The slave trade between Western Africa and the America’s reached its peak in the mid-18th century when it is estimated that over 80,000 Africans annually crossed the Atlantic to spend the rest of their lives in chains. Of those who survived the voyage, the final destination of approximately 40% was the Caribbean Islands. Thirty-eight percent ended up in Brazil, 17% in Spanish America and 6% in the United States. By 1860, there were an estimated 3.5 million Black Africans in what is now the United States, almost all, enslaved.
Today, Fort Prinzensteen, damaged and reduced by the relentless battering of the sea, is the symbol of slavery, an emblematic heart-wrenching ruin of great and tragic importance. For millions of African-Americans and other descendants of slaves throughout the world, it is The Ghana Connection™.
The Project: Slave Roots™
Fort Prinzenstein in the Keta Municipal Assembly is the heart and soul of the Slave Roots™ programme, a historical and emotional focal point for millions of descendants of African slaves. It represents a precious physical link to their ancestors – one which they can visit and explore as part of a diversified programme, taking them along the slave routes and stations in Volta.
Slave Roots™ will establish the Volta Region, Keta Municipal District and Fort Prinzenstein as tourist attractions for an international niche tourist industry composed primarily of descendants of the African Diaspora, but also of citizens everywhere – aware of slavery and curious to learn more. That this experience takes place immediately adjacent to a dungeon and shipping port where this cruel practice flourished for nearly a century, heightens the poignancy of Fort Prinzenstein’s bitter history, and the acute importance of supporting action to suppress slavery in its all its insidious contemporary guises.