Connection with heritage sought
By Bryan Mealer
A growing number of black Americans trading potentially lucrative careers and relative comfort back home for a new life in Africa, where the former slave-trading hub of Ghana is wooing Americans with some of the easiest immigration rules on the continent. That includes a "right of abode" for qualifying American members of the African diaspora, echoing Israel's offer of automatic citizenship for Jews.
Centuries ago, the Gold Coast — Ghana's name under British rule — was a major slave-embarkation point; every year thousands of Africans left here to become human chattel in the New World.
Centuries ago, the Gold Coast — Ghana's name under British rule — was a major slave-embarkation point; every year thousands of Africans left here to become human chattel in the New World. Untold numbers died in slave raids or making the "middle passage" in cramped, pestilential ships. Some parts of Africa were left virtually unpeopled.
The tide was reversed in 1957, when Ghana became one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from colonial rule. Many black Americans began turning up here.
Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, a graduate of Lincoln University in Chester County, Pa., was a leading voice for repatriation, enlisting Americans like the authors W.E.B. DuBois and Maya Angelou to help spread the movement.
Post-independence euphoria was quickly shattered, however, as Ghana fell into decades of military rule before embracing constitutional democracy in 1992.
These days, the country's expanding economy, stable government and laid-back, English-speaking population make it an easy holiday choice for tourists, who flock to the chain of slave forts that still line Ghana's coastline.
For some, Ghana offers incentives to stay: It is the only African country to offer black Americans "right of abode," allowing those who qualify to work and own property, said Janet Butler, president of the African American Association, a support group for expatriates. Applicants must live in Ghana seven years before fully qualifying.
As many as 1,000 black Americans are living in Ghana, Butler said. They are a varied lot: aid workers, pan-African nationalists here since the 1960s, entrepreneurs, retirees, Rastafarian's. A few live in mud huts, embracing the agrarian life of their ancestors.
KNN-This article was originally written in Jan. 2005