The Brazilian Baracoon, built in the 1840s and held up to 40 slaves at a time in Badagry, Lagos State.
This ancient town of Badagry was founded around l425 A.D. Before its existence, people lived along the Coast of Gberefu and this area later gave birth to the town of Badagry. It is the second largest commercial town in Lagos State, located an hour from Lagos and half-hour from the Republic of Benin. The town of Badagry is bordered on the south by the Gulf of Guinea and surrounded by creeks, islands and a lake. The ancient town served mainly the Oyo Empire, which was comprised of Yoruba and Ogu people. Today, the Aworis and Egun are mainly the people who reside in the town of Badagry as well as in Ogun State in Nigeria and in the neighbouring Republic of Benin.
The name originated from the fact that the people of Badagry’s means of livelihood are farming, fishing and salt making due to the availability of trees and presence of ocean water respectively. The natives believed that Badagry was founded by a famous farmer called Agbedeh who maintained a farm which became popular it was named after him. The word Greme meant farm in Ogu language and a visit to Agbedeh’s farm brought about the word and Agbedegreme and its usage meaning Agbedeh’s farm. It was then coined to Agbadagari by the Yoruba inhabitants and later corrupted to Badagry by the European slave merchants before the end of the seventeenth century.
Badagry is majorly recognised for its slave trade by the foreigners.
The trade began in 1440 with Prince Henry, the navigator of Portugal. By 1593, 12,000 slaves had been sold to labour markets in Italy and Spain. One horse was traded for 25-30 slaves in the 1440s and the value of African slaves rose from six to eight slaves per horse. By the 16th century, there were over 32,000 slaves in Portugal.
Along the line, Seriki Faremi Williams, an African slave appealed a bargain with his buyers. He agreed to supply slaves to the foreigners in exchange for his freedom. The Nigerian, specifically of the Yoruba tribe to be exact, got his wish and was immediately set free to begin business. He returned to Badagry and built the Brazillian Baracoon with the mission to transport as much slaves as possible. He raided villages and captured their natives and sold them to the middlemen who eventually re-sold them as slaves to European slave merchants.
The baracoons were small rooms where up to 40 slaves were kept, all in upright position for days before they were shipped across the lagoon via the point of no return into the waiting ships. The group of houses, now mostly residential, were all at one point or the other used to keep slaves waiting to be transported. Vlekete square, founded in 1510, was known to be the slave market in Badagry.
The slave merchants began to work on his intelligence and that of African Leaders involved and enticed them with material gifts. Slaves were then exchanged for merchandises as little as whisky, tobacco, rum, cuppino glass, canons, iron bars, brass, woollen, cotton, linen, silk, beads, guns, gun powder amongst others. Because they knew it was of paramount importance to these natives.
Historically speaking, Badagry was the first and last port of call. When the ships arrive to pick these slaves, they would be brought out from the hole in which they were put and taken to a place called ‘The Point of No Return’. This process involved the crossing of slaves through the ocean that links the Badagry port to this point. When the slaves have been crossed over, they would walk about 20miles to the point.
In between, they would each approach a coven where they would drink from a well that contained a silver shiny liquid claimed to be water and recite a verse. This initiation would wipe out there memory so as to avoid foreknowledge of their whereabouts. The curator further explained that these slaves immediately loose their memory and do not regain it until they reach their final destination. Only the strong ones make it to the New World and maybe luckily, back.