Black to Africa
March 6, 2012 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Has there ever been an account of a group of black Americans choosing to return to Africa and how they fared in doing so? I'm looking for stories about how blacks born in America dealt with and adjusted to the change in culture if they returned to a country in Africa. Books, documentary or whatever are welcomed, preferably with the account occurring in 1960 or later.
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's a perfect fit with what you're describing, but there was a story on Rock Center a few weeks ago that I think is pretty close.
posted by jbickers at 1:29 PM on March 6, 2012

There's been a ton of coverage in Black Enterprise of African American entrepreneurs investing in post-apartheid South Africa. Eugene Jackson is one person who comes to mind; he has given a lot of interviews about his experience that are quite candid. (I know, I am a white lady who isn't in business, why do I read Black Enterprise? I have a couple of friends who write for them, is why.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:34 PM on March 6, 2012

Isn't that the history of Liberia?
posted by zadcat at 1:34 PM on March 6, 2012 [15 favorites]

Yeah, Liberia.
posted by pompomtom at 1:38 PM on March 6, 2012

Third Liberia.
Look up Marcus Garvey.
posted by whatgorilla at 1:42 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

NB: Brandon's looking for things happening in 1960 or later. Liberia was founded in 1820.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:48 PM on March 6, 2012

Response by poster: Isn't that the history of Liberia?

As the post mentioned, I'm much more interested in this occurring in more modern times, say from 1960s onward.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:50 PM on March 6, 2012

Pete O'Neal in Tanzania?
posted by shiny shoes at 1:51 PM on March 6, 2012

How about the book Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa?
posted by feets at 1:55 PM on March 6, 2012

Or, maybe better, Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa 1787-2005? "The roster includes many of the central figures in African American intellectual and political life, including Martin Delany, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Eslanda Robeson, Richard Wright, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Maya Angelou, to name only a few."
posted by feets at 2:00 PM on March 6, 2012

You might be interested in the stories of the some of the radicals in the 60s who were part of the Pan-African movement, some of whom moved to various places in Africa though mostly as independent actors and not as part of a movement. Kwame Toure [formerly Stokely Charmichael). This article talks about some black Americans who moved to South Africa but this movie looks like more along the lines of what you are looking for.
posted by jessamyn at 2:00 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I haven't read it myself but Native Stranger: Black American's Journey into the Heart of Africa touches on this subject. The author of the book also made an appearance in an episode of This American Life.
posted by dhammond at 2:02 PM on March 6, 2012

Nina Simone's autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, has some discussion about her time living in Liberia in the 1970s. (Not quite your question, but inversely, Helene Cooper's memoir, the House at Sugar Beach, discusses growing up in Liberia in the 1970s until a coup forced her family to flee to the states as a teenager, and how she adjusted to that.)
posted by Diablevert at 2:02 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The story of the Rastafarian colonization of the Ethiopian city of Shashamane is interesting too, though maybe Jamaican-back-to-Africa stories are not what you're looking for:
posted by feets at 2:03 PM on March 6, 2012

It's a story about one woman, but Maya Angelou's "The Heart of a Woman" is worth looking at.

"In 1961, Angelou meets South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make.[19] They never marry, but she and Guy move with him, first to London and then to Cairo, Egypt, where she plays "official wife to Make, who had become a political leader in exile".[7] Their relationship is full of cultural conflicts; he expects her to be a subservient African wife, and she yearns for the freedom as a working woman. She learns that Make is too friendly with other women and is irresponsible with money, so she accepts a position as assistant editor at the Arab Observer.

Eventually, Angelou and Make separate, but not before their relationship is examined by their community of friends. She accepts a job in Liberia. She and Guy travel to Accra, Ghana, where he has been accepted to attend college. Guy is seriously injured in an automobile accident, so she accepts a position at the University of Ghana and remains there while he recuperates."
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:06 PM on March 6, 2012

I have a friend who totally did this (like, exactly) in, I think, the 1990's!

She was there for (again, I think) three years and came back, but left everyone else she showed up with behind.

If an on-the-ground account would be worth it, memail me and I'll see if she's interested in telling a stranger about the experience.
posted by Poppa Bear at 2:34 PM on March 6, 2012

Here's more about Accra, Ghana.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:45 PM on March 6, 2012

I was just browsing a bookstore and saw a title called "King Peggy" - it sounds like a made for TV movie but it is a nonfiction book about a secretary in the USA named Peggylene Bartels who gets a call that she is the next in line to become the king of a village in Ghana.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:14 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Last year a D.C. woman became Queen Mother of a village in Ghana. She hasn't moved there, but she'll be visiting regularly.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:02 PM on March 6, 2012

This was really interesting;,0,2641122.htmlstory
posted by bongo_x at 9:45 PM on March 6, 2012

The story of Liberia is Americo-Liberians conquering local tribes and forcing the plantation system on them and eventually annoying them so much that over a decade of horrific civil war broke out.
posted by tarvuz at 7:28 AM on March 7, 2012

I cannot find a link, but Richard Pryor had some rich material about his visit to Africa, his assumptions about how a black man would be treated, what he expected, etc.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:10 PM on March 7, 2012

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