July 17th, 2009
11:50 AM ET

Obama on slavery: 'Capacity for cruelty still exists'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/17/obama.slavery/art.obama.door.no.return.cnn.jpg caption="Obama points to the Door of No Return, which would shut before Africans were put on slave ships."]
Wayne Drash

President Obama slowly walked across the grounds of Cape Coast Castle, a slave outpost in Ghana where hundreds of thousands of Africans were shipped as human cargo to a life of bondage in the United States, South America and the Caribbean.

"You almost feel as if the walls can speak. You try to project yourself into these incredibly harrowing moments," Obama told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

When the president reached the "Door of No Return," an arched gateway with thick doors that would shut behind African men, women and children before they were forced onto slave ships, Obama looked out over the Atlantic Ocean where waves crashed onto rocks. "Obviously there's a sense of what a profound sorrow must've been felt as people were hauled off into the great unknown," he said.

What does he tell his two daughters, Sasha and Malia, about slavery?

Keep reading...

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    I don't feel the need to apologize. I'm originally from East Tennessee – East TN had very few slaves and slaveholders at the time of the civil war. In fact East TN almost turned out like West VA – seceding from the state because it did not want to secede from the Union. Instead of seceding though all my male ancestors at great risk for their lives walked from LaFollette TN to one of the army forts in Kentucky to sign up in the Union army to fight to perserve the union. IF they had been caught along the way by Confederate patrols they would have been shot. My family never owned a slave and fought to end slavery – I think the Union side of the country did their part already and have no need to apologize.

    July 17, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  2. David English

    White americans will never tell the jewish people to stop reporting about their tragic past. That just shows how much hate these people have for our history that built this country, from the "white house"to the
    deep south with no pay at all and the great-great grand kids are still
    living on the trust funds of free labor.

    July 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  3. Nduta

    Wow, I am amazed at some of the comments. I guess it's interesting to see other people's perspectives. For those who don't experience racism or bigotry at some point in their lives, it is easy not to understand the profundity of emotion that African Americans go through when they visit Cape Coast Castle.

    Perhaps we need to point out that slavery is not Barack Obama's past. If anything, perhaps colonialism would have been since his father's family did not experience what other African Americans' families did. However, it is Michelle Obama's past. It is also the past of the majority of Americans, whether slaves or slave-owners, or accessories of some sort (if I may put it that way).

    I was born and bred in Kenya after independence and the effects of colonialism did not affect me the way it did my parents and grandparents. However, the legacy of colonialism still affects me. I know the legacy of slavery still affects many African Americans. It should not be surprising, therefore, to see that many people still want to hear about it and to talk about it.

    Thanks, Anderson Cooper, and keep up the good work!

    July 17, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  4. Lampe

    Exactly how many times are we going to hear this story? We heard it last week, the beginning of this week and now again. There are other things going on in this Country, like the economy, Obama's pricey Heatlh Care Program, Unemployment. don't you think it's time to report on that stuff, and not Obama's past?

    July 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  5. Rick

    It is also fair to say that, while everybody tolerated it, very few whites practiced slavery: in 1860 there were 385,000 USA citizens who owned slaves, or about 1.4% of the white population (there were 27 million whites in the USA). That percentage was zero in the states that did not allow slavery (only 8 million of the 27 million whites lived in states that allowed slavery). Incidentally, in 1830 about 25% of the free Negro slave masters in South Carolina owned 10 or more slaves: that is a much higher percentage (ten times more) than the number of white slave owners. Thus slave owners were a tiny minority (1.4%) and it was not only whites: it was just about anybody who could, including blacks themselves.

    July 17, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  6. Aishah Majid

    I just love your coverage on this, Anderson..it's really shocking to watch that such place ever existed..

    July 17, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  7. Joe

    The liberal media is overloading us with slavery and african american issues. The more you pound on it the more you create a divide rather than unity.

    This is food for Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other blackmailers.

    July 17, 2009 at 1:06 pm |