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city ties can fredericksburg help Prince's Town? Sisters, worlds apart About the series ABOUT GHANA Prince's Town Coming up page 2
Fredericksburg and sister city in Ghana are worlds apart

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Date published: 8/26/2007


The mutual desire of Africans and African-Americans to reconnect their heritage after centuries of separation led to the sister-city relationship between the disparate places.

Historians estimate that 677,000 people from the Gold Coast, Ghana's name in colonial times, were sold into slavery in the 18th century. Their journeys of no return led many of them through the dungeon of the fort at Prince's Town.

The dungeon's outside door is now unhinged. The dark, low-vaulted cellar is full of bats.

The fort offers a bird's-eye view of the weather-worn town below. Most of the houses are one-story. The mud walls of some of them have collapsed because their owners cannot afford to maintain them. The streets are mostly winding, sandy paths.

The drab, squalid town sits amid tropical splendor about 300 miles north of the equator.

Great breakers crash on wide, white-sand beaches as far as the eye can see. On one side of town, two sluggish rivers, the Kpani [ka-PAHN-ni] and the Nyila [nah-YI-la], join just before they reach the sea.

On the other side of town, mangroves surround the deep Ehunli [eh-HOON-li] Lagoon, where crocodiles, reportedly docile, are protected as sacred beings by fetish priests and most people.

However, there's always trouble in paradise.

A disease has killed many of the coconut palms from which families in Prince's Town once derived substantial income.

Farms outside of town, where residents head most mornings by foot or dugout canoe, are being gobbled up in 99-year-long leases by a giant rubber plantation.

Gold mining threatens a nearby national forest reserve.

finding new friends

The list of things that Fredericksburg has and Prince's Town lacks could fill this paper. Unlike in its sister city, there are no fat people in Prince's Town.

Children in crisp, clean uniforms attend the town's primary and junior secondary schools for the first nine years of their education.

But teenagers must leave town to find higher schooling elsewhere. Most of them will never return to live in Prince's Town because the town has no jobs to offer.

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HOW DO YOU SPELL IT? The name of Fredericksburg's sister city in Ghana has several spellings. Is it Princes Town, Prince's Town or Princess Town? In my recent conversations with well-educated English-speaking natives, all agreed that the name means "the town of the prince" and that the name should be written "Prince's Town."

In this case, the prince was the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenberg, who authorized the building of the fort in the town in the 17th century.

When I was there, banners strung over the street welcomed American visitors to "Prince's Town." John Atkins also called it "Prince's Town" in his 1735 book "A Voyage to Guinea." So that's the way I'm spelling it.

But it is "Princess Town" on a road sign, an environmental report, the Web site of Ghana's Ahanta West district and signs at a school and health clinic in town.

My host Alfred Kaku Aluade Acquah said, "'Prince's Town' with the apostrophe 's' was the way we were taught to write it in school. Princess Town is a spelling that has come lately."

Nevertheless, a few days later Acquah wrote out a receipt and spelled it "Princess Town."

--Frank Delano

Frank Delano visited Prince's Town, Fredericksburg's new sister city, during a July trip to Ghana, where he served in the Peace Corps 40 years ago.

TOMORROW: Sister-city relationship shines a beacon of hope into Prince's Town. Tale of two soccer balls illustrates town's need, and obsession. TUESDAY: Spotsylvania man leads effort to protect villagers from malaria. WEDNESDAY: Profile of Fredericksburg's Pamela Bridgewater, ambassador to Ghana THURSDAY: What is the future of the sister-city relationship? FRIDAY: Forty years later, reporter's return to Ghana is bittersweet. Read Frank Delano's account in LIFE. SATURDAY: Remembering Prince's Town's Golden Age, and a photo essay on a traditional burial. Find both in TOWN & COUNTY.

LOCATION: West Africa SIZE: Slightly smaller than Oregon CLIMATE: Tropical POPULATION: 22.4 million RELIGION: Christian, 63 percent; Muslim, 16 percent; and indigenous beliefs, 21 percent LANGUAGE: English (official) and African languages including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe and Ga GOVERNMENT: Constitutional democracy. The president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms. So are members of the parliament. CAPITAL: Accra

TIME DIFFERENCE: Five hours ahead of Washington standard time

INDEPENDENCE: March 6, 1957, from the United Kingdom EXPORTS: Gold, cocoa, timber, tuna, bauxite, aluminum, manganese ore and diamonds CURRENCY: Cedi PHONE LINES IN USE: 2.8 million INTERNET HOSTS: 380 INTERNET USERS: 401, 300