August 10, 1999: Odeefuo Boa Amponsem, King of Denkyira apologizes for the role of pre-colonial chiefs in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

The coast line of Ghana is littered with dark reminders of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade from the 15th to 19th centuries. From the Donkor Nsuo (Slave River) at Assin Manso to the Door-of-No-Return at Cape Coast Castle, the architecture of Ghana serves to remind its inhabitants and visitors of those who were taken away to never return. Slavery and human trafficking in Africa pre-dated European exploration. The typical life of a slave in West Africa was markedly different from his/her counterpart who was unfortunate enough to be sold or captured into slavery across the ocean. The explorer Mungo Park observed in modern day Nigeria:

The slaves in Africa, I suppose, are nearly in the proportion of three to one to the freemen. They claim no reward for their services except food and clothing, and are treated with kindness or severity, according to the good or bad disposition of their masters.... The slaves which are thus brought from the interior may be divided into two distinct classes – first, such as were slaves from their birth, having been born of enslaved mothers; secondly, such as were born free, but who afterwards, by whatever means, became slaves. Those of the first description are by far the most numerous.

West African slavery from the 12th to 19th century is documented to have more resembled an extreme caste system, albeit with a class committing the abhorrent deed of owning other humans. On the other hand, there were examples of extremely sadistic behavior exhibit toward slaves. Kings of Dahomey routinely slaughtered slaves in hundreds or thousands in sacrificial rituals, and slaves as human sacrifices were also known in Cameroon. In 1494 Portuguese traders began forming relationships with Africans along the continent's western coast. This marked the early stages of what became the nearly four centuries long Trans-Atlantic slave trade. From the 15th to 17th centuries, the slave trade overshadowed all other commercial institutions in West Africa. It enriched many powerful men on all three sides of the trading triangle.

Many African groups were themselves complicit in the slave trade. Initially, most slaves who were sold to Europeans were prisoners of war. As time progressed, groups began actively raiding villages to sell members of rival groups into slavery. It is estimated that of the over 12.5 million people who embarked across the Atlantic to be slaves, 10% came from the land that was to become the Gold Coast colony (modern-day Ghana).

In 1999 Odeefuo Boa Amponsem III, the King of Denkyira, was elected President of the National House of Chiefs. During his term heading the national chiefs, Amponsem proposed many radical reforms including moving the seat of the chiefs to Kumasi for cultural reasons. He also officially apologized to all descendants of victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade for the role that African chiefs played. Of the 12.5 million who fell victim to the trade, only 10.7 million survived the journey across the ocean. An unreported number died of unnatural causes when arriving to the sugar, cotton, and copper mines and plantations in the New World. The Kingdom of Denkyira itself was enriched by the slave trade and grew to its greatest strength in the 17th century through a combination of the gold and human trade. In 2006 Ghana's Parliament formally apologized as a nation to the descendants of slaves for the role those who were enriched by the structure played.

Odeefuo Boa Amponsem III, the King of Denkyira

Odeefuo Boa Amponsem III, the King of Denkyira

To date the United States, European Union, nor Brazil--the greatest benefactors of the slave trade--have officially apologized to descendants of slaves for the trade and its ongoing effects.