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Vice President Harris wiped away tears as she toured Ghana's Cape Coast slave castle

Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff listen to a guide as they tour Ghana's Cape Coast slave castle, a prison and embarkation point for slaves en route to the Americas.
Misper Apawu
/
AP
Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff listen to a guide as they tour Ghana's Cape Coast slave castle, a prison and embarkation point for slaves en route to the Americas.

Vice President Harris wiped away tears as she toured the dungeons of Ghana's Cape Coast slave castle on Tuesday, and said the experience underscored that the history of enslaved people must be taught and remembered.

Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff spent about an hour at the site, and passed through the Door of No Return, known as the final step before those who were kidnapped were forced onto ships to be transported across the Atlantic Ocean.

"The horror of what happened here must always be remembered. It cannot be denied. It must be taught. History must be learned," she said, straying from her prepared speech to emphasize the issue.

"We must then be guided by what we know also to be the history of those who survived," she said. "They tell another history — a history of endurance, a history of faith, a history in believing what is possible," she said.

Harris' remarks come after an uproar over Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' decision to block a new high school Advanced Placement course on Black history. DeSantis is expected to run for his party's nomination for the 2024 presidential race.

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff wipes away a tear as he and Vice President Harris tour Ghana's Cape Coast slave castle.
Niphah Dennis / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff wipes away a tear as he and Vice President Harris tour Ghana's Cape Coast slave castle.

Harris, the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit Africa, is also visiting Tanzania and Zambia during her week-long trip. Biden is expected to visit the continent later this year.

Kwesi Blankson guided Harris and Emhoff on their tour. He told reporters that it was a solemn moment.

"I told her about the dungeons and women especially, how they held in the dungeons and how they looked up through the holes to and pray to the sky god for redemption and how some of them sang," Blankson said, adding that he sang one of the songs for Harris that was about the problems of life.

The vice president said she planned to carry the anguish and pain from Cape Coast Castle with her, and use it to fight for freedom and justice. She noted that the descendants of enslaved people went on to fight for civil rights in the United States and all over the world.

"The descendants of the people who walked through that door were strong people, proud people, people of deep faith people who loved their families, their traditions, their culture," Harris said. "All of us, regardless of your background, have benefited from their struggle and their fight for freedom and for justice."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.