Halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, the plane carrying Tani Sanchez and her daughter Tani Sylvester on a heritage tour to Ghana crossed paths with a powerful storm. A sharp drop in elevation hurled flight attendants to the floor. Passengers started screaming and crying. “‘Oh my God, I brought my mom! What did I do?’” Sylvester, 40, recalled thinking as the plane shook. “It was the scariest thing that has ever happened in my life.” After a few minutes, the pilot pulled the aircraft to safety above the dark clouds. Looking back, Sylvester sees the moment of terror as a nudge from the past, an invocation of the suffering of millions of Africans who were crammed into the lightless hulls of ships and sent in the opposite direction during the centuries-long transatlantic slave trade. “I think my ancestors were telling me, this wasn’t an easy trip for us,” she said. “They sailed over that same Atlantic Ocean. It was traumatising and scary for months, and I experienced five minutes of trauma and I was freaking out.” The two Tanis are among a growing number of African Americans exploring their ancestral roots in Ghana, which has encouraged people with Ghanaian heritage to return in honour of the 400th anniversary of the first recorded arrival of African slaves to English settlements in what would one day become America. They had set off the previous day from Los Angeles, where Sylvester works for a digital-streaming service. But their family’s journey began nearly two centuries
In a clearing at the turnoff to Assin Manso, a billboard depicts two African slaves in loincloths, their arms and legs in chains. Beside them are the words, “Never Again!” This is “slave river,” where captured Ghanaians submitted to a final bath before being shipped across the Atlantic into slavery centuries ago, never to return to the land of their birth. Today, it is a place of somber homecoming for the descendants of those who spent their lives as someone else’s property. The popularity of the site has swelled this year, 400 years after the trade in Africans to the English colonies of America began. This month’s anniversary of the first Africans to arrive in Virginia has caused a rush of interest in ancestral tourism, with people from the United States, the Caribbean and Europe seeking out their roots in West Africa. “Ten years ago, no one went to the slave river, but this year has been massive,” said Awuracy Butler, who runs a company called Butler Tours. She said business has nearly doubled this year, which has been touted as the Year of Return for the African diaspora tracing their family history. The number of tourists has forced her to hire more vehicles, she said. “Everyone wants to add the slave river to their tour,” she said. The coastal forts where they spent their last days in Ghana in suffocating conditions are also increasingly popular, she said. The increase in tourism has been an economic boon for Ghana, which
Nana Assenso stands at the grave of his uncle, remembering the man he loved but also a past that has haunted his family for generations. His uncle was called Kwame Badu, a name that has been passed on through the family in remembrance of an ancestor with that name who was captured and sold into slavery long, long ago. “Growing up, I was told the story of two of my great-great-grand-uncles Kwame Badu and Kofi Aboagye who were captured and sold into slavery,” says Assenso, 68, the chief of Adidwan, a village in Ghana’s interior. He followed the family tradition and named his youngest son Kwame Badu. This month marks 400 years since the first recorded African slaves arrived in North America to work plantations in English colonies. In the centuries after, European slave traders shipped millions of African men, women and children across the Atlantic Ocean. Many died in horrific conditions on the slave boats, while survivors endured a life of misery and backbreaking farm work. For some of them, the terrible journey began here, deep inside Ghana. Captured by slavers, they were marched along dirt tracks for 200 kilometers (125 miles) to slave castles perched on the Atlantic Coast, where they boarded ships for North America. They never saw their homeland again. From here in Adidwan, the slaves were forced south, passing through the gold-mining town of Obuasi. Kwaku Agyei is a pastor and elder in Obuasi. He tells the story of the slave trade to young workers
Corbyn insists it has never been a more important time for the UK to learn about the “legacy of the British Empire, colonisation and slavery,” in light of the recent Windrush scandal.
“Black history is British history, and it should not be confined to a single month each year. It is vital that future generations understand the role that black Britons have played in our country’s history and the struggle for racial equality,” Labour leader Jeremy said.
U.S. First lady Melania Trump laid a wreath at a slave fortress on the coast of Ghana, vowing never to forget the place where Africans were held before being shipped away into further hardship, most across the Atlantic. “It’s really, really touching,” Melania Trump said. “The dungeons that I saw, it’s really something that people should see and experience, and what happened so many years ago — it’s really a tragedy.”