Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Return to Africa of African Americans, a remembrance trip

28.11.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
About four centuries after the end of the slave trade, the memory of slaves still fascinates historians as much as the descendants of these men and women who were torn from their daily lives by a shameful traffic that some countries now consider a crime against humanity. The idea of a return to Africa has been fostered for several years now by thousands of Americans, descendants of black slaves from Africa.

According to the United Nations, over 200 million people living on the American continent are of African origins. More and more African Americans are embarking on this emotional journey that allows them to reconnect with their roots. Their destinations are not are not chosen by chance but based on DNA tests results that give them more clues about their countries and ethnic groups of origin.

The Quest for Identity

The search for identity is one of the main reasons for the return of African Americans and Caribbean people to Africa. Present in the United States for four centuries, the Black community, which represents 14% of the American population, has nevertheless remained attached to its African roots. Thanks to their increasingly affordable costs, DNA testing has helped to promote many trips to Africa.  These genetic tests, carried out using saliva samples, allow many African Americans to unravel a mystery that has become an obsession for many.

The curiosity of African Americans and people of Caribbean origin about their roots has allowed the development of a flourishing business around the famous genetic DNA testing. While there have been advances in science, these tests, which ten years ago, only provided details of the countries and regions to which these descendants of slaves were linked to, now go beyond this information since they are able to establish a connection dating back several generations between people with family ties. This in-depth information from DNA testing and research on social media platforms such as Facebook have fostered reunions between descendants of slaves and people with whom they share kinship ties.

A Journey back to the roots

Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Benin, Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola and many more are all countries on the African coast that were among the main starting points for slaves during the black trade. On their shores, many ships full of slaves left Africa for the new continent; America. The return trips to Africa are thus pilgrimages for African Americans to get to know their African roots, to meet each other and to forge new family ties. These journeys are also emotional journeys through time that allow the descendants of slaves to retrace their ancestors’ journey to the new world, to get an idea of the humiliations suffered by the latter and the pain of the horrible separation from their lands. These return trips to Africa are also an opportunity for many visitors to question the scope of the slave trade. For the descendants of slaves, a purification ritual is necessary.

These trips, which are prepared and managed by some agencies, have also fostered the emergence of remembrance tourism in Africa through guided tours to the main slave trade sites. According to the World Tourism Organization, Benin has seen the number of tourists in its territory jump from 209,000 to 250,000 between 2011 and 2015. In Senegal, where there is more traffic, the Ministry of Culture reports more than 500 visitors per day on the island of Gorée. In Ghana, the number of visitors to the country increased by 20% after Barack Obama visited Cape Coast Fort and other symbolic places of used during the slave trade in 2009.

The island of Gorée in Senegal, the slave fort of Cape Coast in Ghana, Ouidah in Benin, James Island and Albreda Island in Gambia, the island of Gberefu attract Americans every year, including great personalities. Other less well-known sites are also included in the cultural heritage of the slave trade. Among them is the former slave port of Bimbia in Cameroon, the main point of the slave trade in the Gulf of Guinea. This site is located on the Atlantic Ocean coast in the south western region, a few kilometres from Limbe.

Discovered in 1987, it is classified as a national heritage site in Cameroon and a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status. The port of Bimbia, through which, according to researchers, nearly 10% of the 12 million slaves sold during the slave trade passed, still contains evidence that have remained intact. Due to its strategic position, the port of Bimbia has also served as a transit point for ships from southern Africa wishing to source their supplies before continuing on their long journey to America or the West African Coast.

Settling in Africa

By deciding to make 2019 the year of return, Ghana wishes to attract as many descendants of American slaves as possible to its lands and boost memorable tourism, which is economically profitable given the many sites linked to the slave trade in the country. In addition to being visited by thousands of Americans each year, this West African country has become a popular destination for African Americans seeking to settle on the continent.

Victims of racism, exclusion and discrimination characterized by arbitrary police violence and arrest, many members of the diaspora of African descent have decided to settle in Africa where they claim to feel at home at last.  While Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, said his country was open to African Americans seeking to reconnect with their African roots, Ghana, now led by Nana Akufo Addo, has had a law granting permanent residence in the country to people of African descent wishing to settle in Ghana since 2000. Measures have been taken by the government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make investment procedures and other development projects more flexible. Since the adoption of this legislation, the former Gold Coast, considered to be the epicentre of slave trade, has been receiving requests from African Americans each year, who nevertheless complain about the slowness of administrative procedures. Once settled in Ghana, their main challenges remain finding a job or setting up a business.

The year 2019 is symbolic in the history of the black slave trade because 400 years ago, about twenty slaves from the African coast landed in Virginia for the first time. Ghana, which is presented by historians as one of the essential points of this shameful and inhuman traffic, has decided to make this year its year of return. The opportunity for her to organize for twelve months on his territory cultural events dedicated to this episode of the history of the black people. This initiative beyond the emotional side is also a serious windfall on the economic level since it aims to boost memorial tourism in the country and especially to encourage the descendants of slaves to remain in the country of their ancestors and contribute to its development.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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