Daily Archives: January 15, 2022

The Manuscripts and Intellectual Legacy of Timbuktu

Gresham College – Nov 22, 2021

The Malian city of Timbuktu is one of the world’s oldest seats of learning and has an intellectual legacy of hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, coming from three great West African desert empires: Ancient Ghana, medieval Mali, and the Songhai Empire. These manuscripts offer a unique window into their history. Many remain unread. This lecture will look at how their study can be used to advance our knowledge of the intellectual history of the premodern world. A lecture by Robin Walker

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-an…

Gresham College has offered free public lectures for over 400 years, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. There are currently over 2,500 lectures free to access. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds. To support Gresham’s mission, please consider making a donation: https://gresham.ac.uk/support/

Rachel Engmann, Hampshire College – The Archaeology of the Slaver in Eighteenth Cent ury Ghana – The Academic Minute

by Academic Minute 01/21/2019 | 12:01 1 Posted in Archaeology, History

Our view of the trading of enslaved people needs a different perspective.

Rachel Engmann, assistant professor of African studies at Hampshire College, discusses why African experiences need to be brought to the fore.

Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, assistant professor of African Studies, received a B.A. in anthropology from Columbia University, an M.A. in museum studies from Columbia, an M.A. in heritage from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in archaeology from Stanford University. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship from Brown University.

Engmann teaches courses on historical and contemporary forms of the African experience, such as African Islam, critical heritage, material culture, museums, Islamic archaeology, slave trade, slavery, and colonial photography. A scholar who applies a multiple lines of evidence approach (objects, texts, oral narratives, and ethnography), she enjoys working with students interested in engaging with a variety of documentary sources, and combining different theoretical and methodological approaches in the humanities and social sciences, in search of novel revisionist historical and contemporary approaches to the study of Africa.

As a scholar/practitioner, Engmann has two research projects in Ghana. The first project, Hidden Palimpsests: Unraveling Nineteenth Century Islamic Talismans in Asante chronicles the relationship between objects, texts, religion, and empire. She examines some of the oldest and most extensive sources in existence from museum, private, community, and royal collections.

Her second project, Slavers in the Family: The Archaeology of the Slaver in Eighteenth Century Gold Coast, is a study of Christiansborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, former seventeenth century European trading post, Danish and British colonial seat of government administration, and Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana. She is the first scholar granted access to the site. It is the first excavation of the Castle. This community archaeology, ethnography, documentary film, and museum project is grounded in its commitment to the political impacts of research on direct descendants and the public. As a Ghanaian descendant of Carl Gustav Engmann (1752-1757), a Danish Governor at Christiansborg Castle and Board Director of the Danish Slave Trade Organization (1766-1769), she has coined the term “autoarchaeology.” This project contributes to the Ghana Government’s aims to convert the site into a museum. Further information can be found in at http://christiansborgarchaeologicalheritageproject.org (English, Ga, and Twi).

The Archaeology of the Slaver in Eighteenth Century Ghana

Archaeological excavations at Christiansborg Castle in Ghana challenge traditional historical interpretations of the Danish transatlantic slave trade based on European colonial written accounts. Such sources present history from a European – often white, male, elitist – colonial perspective, frequently marginalizing or disregarding African and Afro-European experiences.

Christiansborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a former C17th European trading post, Danish and British colonial seat of government, and Office of the President of Ghana. Between 1694 and 1803, 100,000 enslaved Africans were transported from the castle to the Danish West Indies.

I am a Ghanaian archaeologist and direct descendant of Carl Gustav Engmann, a Governor at the castle and Board Member of the Danish Guinea Company, and Ashiokai, the Osu Chief’s daughter.

At the castle, we adopt a collaborative approach to archaeology. Our team includes descendants whose ancestors lived close to the castle during the 18th century, and who continue to do so today. Historical archaeology at the Castle adopts a multiple lines of evidence approach, employing artifacts, texts, oral narratives and ethnography. This is in keeping with the notion that there are multiple, competing readings of the past, creating a dialogue between different understandings of the African, European and Afro-European experience.

To date, fieldwork has unearthed a pre-colonial settlement. We have also excavated a cannon, African trade beads, Chinese and European ceramics, African and European smoking pipes, local pottery, European glassware and many other small finds. We also discovered an underground tunnel from a slave trader’s house that debouched within the castle.

Together, we are rewriting histories once marginalized, silenced and erased. We are shedding light on little known episodes in the history and legacies of the transatlantic slave trade.

See related:

as well as:

Ghana’s ‘Year of Return’ is emotional for descendants on both sides of t he slave trade | The World from PRX

As two groups of people separated generations ago are reunited, they’re also confronting their differences.

The World August 23, 2019 · 3:15 PM EDT
Updated on Nov. 29, 2019 · 12:30 PM EST

Editor’s note: This story originally aired on The World earlier this year as part of the series, “400 years: Slavery’s unresolved history.” It was repackaged on the show again on Nov. 29 as part of a special feature over the holidays along with this story.

Over one doorway at Elmina Castle, a former hub of the slave trade in Ghana, a brass plaque reads, “door of no return.” It was the last door that captive Africans went through in Africa before they were boarded onto ships and sold as slaves.

The passage is intentionally narrow, so prisoners had to walk one by one through the near darkness and then into the sudden, blinding sunlight. From there, the captive Africans were chained for months in the packed bowels of ships until they arrived in the Americas, and were enslaved.

Related: ‘Willful amnesia’: How Africans forgot — and remembered — their role in the slave trade

Ampson Hagan, a postdoctoral student in anthropology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was one of the few Americans on a recent tour at the castle.

“Think about all the work and mental labor that went into constructing this place so that it was efficient. That’s remarkably awful.”

Ampson Hagan

“Think about all the work and mental labor that went into constructing this place so that it was efficient,” he said. “That’s remarkably awful.”

To hear more about the experience of touring the old slave castle, click the audio player below.

Today, some descendants of enslaved people are returning to Ghana, which has declared 2019 the “Year of Return.” It’s an emotional moment, with Africans and African Americans coming at it from different perspectives, and with different hopes.

Many African Americans visiting Ghana are trying to reconnect with their family history and culture from before the slave trade. At the same time, some Ghanaians are attempting to reconcile with people from the African diaspora. Representatives of ethnic groups that participated in the slave trade have recently apologized.

Related:Retracing a slave route in Ghana, 400 years later


Kha-Nu Nation– Jun 22, 2018

“It is a checkered history that happened, and we cannot dwell on the past forever. We’ve said on different platforms — we’ve rendered our apology to our kinsmen who were taken from the coast of West Africa to the diaspora to serve as slaves. We jointly condemn that inhumane treatment that was meted out to them,” Akoto said.

…(read more).

2018 African leader apologize for selling us into slavery….we want land in Africa

Kha-Nu Nation– Jun 22, 2018

Descendants of enslaved Africans in the USA need African leaders to support our resolution for our “claimed” land in Africa…all it takes is a signature. www.kha-nu.com

A professor with Ghanaian roots unearths a slave castle’s history — and her own | The World from PRX

Rachel Engmann, a professor at Hampshire College, found her surname in a slave castle in Accra, Ghana, and decided to do some digging.

The World August 19, 2019 · 12:45 PM EDT

Editor’s note: This story originally aired on The World earlier this year as part of the series, “400 years: Slavery’s unresolved history.” It was repackaged on the show again on Nov. 29 as part of a special feature over the holidays along with this story.

Rachel Engmann’s aunt told her there was something at Christiansborg Castle she should go check out for herself.

“She said to me, ‘Oh, you know, you’re interested in culture. You should go to the castle and see.’ She said, “See your name on the wall.” So, of course, my surname is her surname, but when she relayed it to me, she didn’t say our surname; she said my surname.”

Christiansborg Castle is a walled, stone building that stands 3 stories tall on the coast of Accra, Ghana’s capital. The facade is painted so white, it almost seems to glow in the sun.

In the 1600s and 1700s, they used it to transport and sell about 125,000 Africans into slavery — most to what today is the US Virgin Islands. The lower levels were the dungeons where many captive Africans died in cavelike cells with low ceilings.

“It’s very strange being here, which I can’t really explain,” said Rachel Engmann, a professor from Hampshire College in central Massachusetts. “I wouldn’t stay here after dark. … People hear footsteps. People hear crying.”

Related: Amid 1619 anniversary, Virginia grapples with history of slavery in America

Rachel Engmann, who is English and Ghanaian, was raised in Singapore and began visiting here in 2005. She found the family name in the castle courtyard, inscribed on the side of a water cistern. It read: “Carl Gustav Engmann, 1757.”

Rachel Engmann, then in her 20s, didn’t know then that the find would become integral to her archaeology work, and to understanding her own family history.

Related: Pirates brought enslaved Africans to Virginia’s shores. Where, exactly, is debatable.

Rachel Engmann had heard of a Carl Gustav Engmann in her family history — a Danish man who came here when the Danes occupied the area.

“I’d grown up with the understanding that [Carl Gustav Engmann] was a missionary,” she said.

That was family lore. But in Carl Gustav Engmann’s papers in the National Archives in Denmark, Rachel Engmann learned he was a governor of the castle for five years and oversaw the sale of captive Africans. He was on the board of the Danish slave trading company and had his own enslaved people.

Related: Archivists race to digitize slavery records before the history is lost

That didn’t keep Carl Gustav Engmann from also marrying an African — Ashiokai Ahinaekwa, the daughter of a chief from the local Ga ethnic group. Carl Gustav Engmann later returned to Denmark, but not before he and his wife started the Engmann line in Ghana — which, generations later produced Rachel Engmann’s father, and herself.

She’s still trying to understand how she feels about being the direct descendent of slavers.

“This will sound like I’m avoiding it, which I’m not really, but I think I need time to process this.”

Rachel Engmann

“This will sound like I’m avoiding it, which I’m not really, but I think I need time to process this,” she said.

But finding the family name in a way tied her to this castle. Rachel Engmann wanted to know more about it, and she was looking for a project to complete her graduate degree. She went to the Ghanaian president to ask for permission to do an archaeological dig at the castle.

Rachel Engmann also wrote about it here and here.

Related: A DNA test connected two distant cousins — and filled out a family history that slavery erased

Five years ago, Rachel Engmann’s team broke ground on a dig site on the far side of the castle gardens. They began digging a hole that was the size of a small box. Now, it almost looks like Rachel Engmann’s team has uncovered the foundation of a house.

…(read more).

See related:

Boston Calling – 400 years – BBC Sounds

Released On: 31 Aug 2019
Available for over a year

This year marks four hundred years since slave traders arrived at the Virginia colony with the first captive Africans to be enslaved in what would become the US. It was the start of something that would come to define and divide America. Ghana has declared 2019 the “Year of Return” for African descendants around the globe. Our reporter, Rupa Shenoy, traveled to Ghana to look at how slavery is entangled in both the past and present lives of people there and in the African diaspora. (A view inside of Christiansborg Castle, Ghana. Credit: Selase Kove-Seyram/The World)

MLK Day, 4pm ET: Building Restorative Justice Across the African Diaspora with Kwame Akoto-Bamfo

mondays at beineckE
registration required

Monday, January 17, 4pm ET, online

A presentation of survivor’s semiotics with the founder of the Nkyinkyim Museum in Nuhalenya Ada, Ghana (image above). Akoto-Bamfo’s Nkyinkyim Installation stands at the entrance of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. In 2021, his Blank Slate Monument toured throughout the U.S., from Louisville, to the King Center in Atlanta, among other stops. He spoke at Beinecke Library on Martin Luther King Day 2020, one of our last major on-site events before the pandemic. We are honored by his return, virtually, in 2022 from Ghana. Co-sponsored by Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition

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More upcoming Mondays at Beinecke:

  • January 24: BRAVA – Women Make American Theater with Melissa Barton
  • January 31: Yale & Slavery – Student Perspectives
  • February 7: Georgia Douglas Johnson with Kassidi Jones
  • February 14: Points of Contact/Points of View with Nancy Kuhl, Bill Landis, and Jae Rossman

President Obama in Ghana at the Cape Coast Dungeons – Parts 1&2

Bomani Tyehimba– Jul 19, 2009

President Obama and his family toured Cape Coast Holocaust Dungeons in Ghana West Africa Saturday 07-11-09. This is an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN AC 360 around the dungeons. Cape Coast is one of the biggest of the many dungeons on the coast of West Africa that stored Africans in the early 1500s to mid 1800s that were used & abused as cargo on slave ships destined for the plantations of the Americas and the Caribbean. Ghana is one of the most incredible places in Africa and the world. You have to be there to experience the experience of a lifetime. Visit our website www.africafortheafricans.org for information on tours to Ghana and other historical countries in Africa. Family please support our Go Fund me so we can build an African Diaspora Village to help our people to come home to Africa. https://www.gofundme.com/repatriation…

President Obama in Ghana at the Cape Coast Dungeons‏ pt 2-2

Bomani Tyehimba– Jul 19, 2009

Anderson Cooper of CNN AC 360 talks about African Americans returning home to Ghana. He interviews Seestah IMAHKUS owner of One Africa Guest House (www.oneafricaghana.com) a few miles from Cape Coast & Elmina Dungeons. IMAHKUS is from NYC and has been living in Ghana for almost 20 years and love the tropical life. Ghana is one of the most incredible places in Africa and the world. You have to be there to experience the experience of a lifetime. Visit our website www.africafortheafricans.org for information on tours to Ghana and other historical countries in Africa.

Cape Coast Castle HD Tour

Sonya Delight– Oct 29, 2017

Complete tour of the famous Cape Coast Castle located in Ghana, West Africa. Cape Coast castle is one of the three major castles in Ghana. Cape Coast castle played a significant role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Thank You Kofi Mensah for allowing me to record this tour.

Christianborg Archaeological Heritage Project (CAHP)

Welcome to the Christianborg Archaeological Heritage Project (CAHP), a study of Christiansborg Castle (today, known as Osu Castle), one of Ghana’s most important heritage sites. Over the years, Christiansborg Castle has servved several important functions: a trading enrepot during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the seat of colonial government administration, and laterly, the Office of the President of the Republic of Ghana.

Today, ‘The Castle’, as it is locally known, is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Christiansborg Archaeological Heritage Project is a community-based project. Since 2014 a team of Ghanaian researchers, including Osu community members, professors and students, has worked together to learn more about the history of the castle, particularly the people who lived and worked there.

Discover more about the Christianborg Archaeological Heritage Project by visiting The Site, The Project, Research and News where we will have regular updates on our progress and share our stories.

Read about the community and also the educational contributions we are making by visiting Community Engagement.

You can also learn more about the people and organizations who have helped us by visiting Supporters.

Lastly, pleas Contact Us should you wish to learn more, participate or support our project

Thank you,
Prof. Rachel Arna Asaa Engmann

For news see particularly:

News – Christiansborg Archaeological Heritage Project (CAHP)

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