Posted on January 11, 2005

African Americans Reverse Slave Ships’ Route, Return to Ghana

NBC 4 (Los Angeles), January 11, 2005

As a young African-American wondering how to connect with his heritage, Marcus Manns may have been alone in thinking that his ancestral homeland had a great need for a decent chiropractor.

Fresh out of college four years ago, Manns landed in Ghana’s sweltering, exhaust-choked capital with only $1,200 in his wallet, no contacts, and no ticket home.

“I thought I’d set up my booth and there’d be people lined up for days,” the 30-year-old from Bassett, Va., said as he played golf recently at Accra’s Achimota Golf Club. He punched a shot through a tangle of weeds and laughed. “Boy, that just wasn’t the case.”

Some Ghanaians had never even heard of chiropractors, he said.

Manns is among 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. 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.