photo by Joao Silva, New York Times
The above photo accompanied the New York Times article on West African child slavery I mentioned yesterday. As I thought about this wrenching topic, I remembered a young woman, perhaps 14 years old, who worked in the household of my first headmaster in Asamankese, Ghana, where Gretchen and I taught for a year before transferring to New Drobo Secondary School. I think this young woman was related to the headmaster or his wife and was working for them in exchange for room and board--and perhaps a small salary. She did not attend school and had no real prospects for self-improvement. It suddenly dawns on me after nearly 40 years that she was essentially a young slave, though the family would never have referred to her as such. I can picture her dimly: long shabby skirt and bare feet, short hair in the fashion of young women (before they were old enough to have it braided), unexpressive face and resigned demeanor. We visited castles at Cape Coast and Elmina where slaves had been held captive before being shipped across the Atlantic. I recall the small passageway down close to the water line on the outer wall of one castle where slaves were hustled onto ships for the long, agonizing, often deadly trip to the West Indies or the U.S. It never occurred to me that there might still be slaves in the very society that I was working so earnestly and innocently to transform.