Wood Home of Agbodrafo

History of Togo’s slave house run by an African king

It is very difficult for many to believe that the slavery was profitable not only for Western slave traders and merchants but also for many local chieftains and warriors who made so much money selling off their own people even after the trade was outlawed.

Unfortunately, there are many local chiefs and returnees who decided to continue in the slave trade business and made it all the more challenging for the heinous practice to end years after it was abolished, whether many like to admit it or not.

Aného was a coastal town known as one of West Africa’s largest slave centres in modern-day Togo. Slaves from Ghana, Nigeria and many other parts of the region were ushered to be displayed, sold and tossed on to slave ships heading for the plantations in America.

The island was known at that time as Little Popo and was a favourite among many European slave traders.

Aného’s local residents were violently opposed to the slave trade and frequently engaged in uprisings to drive off Western slave traders. Unfortunately, several local powerful men supported the business, aiding the merchants’ capture and sell people into slavery.

The Portuguese were the first to come in contact with Aneho locals and commence the business of slave trading, which had been expanded by the 17th century with the invasion of Danes and English. The slave traders triggered conflicts between the Aného and their neighbours and used these battles to capture people into slavery.

The abolition of the slave trade did not sit well with several West African chiefs including Aneho’s Chief Assiakoley. So in 1835, Chief Assiakoley welcomed an English slave trader named John Henry Wood into his settlement. Wood later built a house in a secret location for Assiakoley and his family.

The deal between Wood and the chief was that, in building the house and living together, they would work together to capture slaves, sell them and split the profit.

The house, popularly known as the Wood Home of Agbodrafo and had four bedrooms, a large living room and a cellar where the captured natives were kept until they were shipped off into slavery. While staying with Wood, Chief Assiakoley managed to convince several tribal leaders in the north to plan raids and bring the people into slavery.

Once captured, the people were immediately taken into the home and thrown into the dark cellar, located under the living room. They were kept there for several weeks until the slave ships came back to take them off to the new world.

Before leaving Africa, all slaves who went through Little Popo were made to partake in a ritual. They were taken to a well known as the Puit des enchaînés” and made to take their last bath in Africa and run around the well 7 times. This ritual was said to shake off everything African from them and help them lose connections faster than usual.

It took many years to find out about the Wood Home which was a base for illegal slavery. After its discovery, the house has been renovated and opened up as a tourist site and is one of the most visited slave homes in West Africa.

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