In 1619, the Virginia colony in what would become the United States of America welcomed a ship carrying slaves brought over from Africa, the first step in the development of what would become the Euro-American slave trade. Four hundred years later, the West African country of Ghana launched a project to encourage African Americans to visit the continent to discover more about their ancestry. The project has been a success, with about 750,000 African Americans in 2019 alone taking advantage of the opportunity to visit the country. Others have taken the bold step of fully resettling in Africa.
The project has encouraged local entrepreneurs to grow businesses around heritage tourism. One such example is Togolese entrepreneur Dossé-Via Trenou, founder of Magic & Melanin, which offers packages for African Americans who wish to find out more about West Africa and the history of the slave trade.
Speaking with France 24, Trenou expressed humility at how many have taken up her travel package. Her first trip had only nine paying participants, but now the excursions, which target African Americans in their mid-twenties and send them on an immersive experience through Ghana, Togo and Benin, are so popular they are filling up at about 30 participants per trip. And there’s a waiting list.
France 24 followed along on Magic & Melanin’s most recent tour and documented the group’s experiences as they visited various historical sites, including the main ports and the roads that tens of thousands of African slaves were forced to march down as they were assessed and loaded up like cargo onto ships bound for South America, the Caribbean, and North America. Near the end of their trip, the Americans met with Beninese entrepreneurs of the same age group to engage with their generational cohorts who grew up in Africa.
The hope of Trenou and other trip organizers like her is that these visits to Africa will inspire a movement among African Americans in which people will return to Africa to, as France 24 states, “transform their trauma into an entrepreneurial force in their motherland”.