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Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture Barbara Oteng-Gyasi invited blacks in the United States to “re-settle in Ghana if they feel unwanted” during a ceremony commemorating the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.
According to the Independent Ghana news outlet, Oteng-Gyasi made the offer during a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Floyd.
“Racism in America continues to be a deadly pandemic, for which for more than 400 years now, our brothers and sisters in the United States of America have yearned for a cure,” she reportedly said.
“We continue to open our arms and invite all our brothers and sisters home. Ghana is your home. Africa is your home. We have our arms wide open ready to welcome you home,” she added, according to the report.
“Please take advantage, come home build a life in Ghana, you do not have to stay where you are not wanted forever, you have a choice and Africa is waiting for you,” she said.
Beginning in the latter 1400s, Ghana became a hub for the European slave trade. Explorers from the European continent were first drawn to Africa and to Ghana in particular in search of mineral riches, soon establishing what would come to be known as the Gold Coast.
But, according to a Ghana history of the era, African kingdoms were heavily involved in trafficking their own people, a point lost in the current debate about America’s ‘history of racism’:
With the opening of European plantations in the New World during the 1500s, which suddenly expanded the demand for slaves in the Americas, trade in slaves soon overshadowed gold as the principal export of the area. Indeed, the west coast of Africa became the principal source of slaves for the New World. The seemingly insatiable market and the substantial profits to be gained from the slave trade attracted adventurers from all over Europe. Much of the conflict that arose among European groups on the coast and among competing African kingdoms was the result of rivalry for control of this trade.
“On the Gold Coast, these European competitors built fortified trading stations and challenged the Portuguese. Sometimes they were also drawn into conflicts with local inhabitants as Europeans developed commercial alliances with local chiefs,” the history notes.
As for the offer to American blacks, NBC News reported early last week that the African nation had expanded its “Year of Return” initiative, which was launched last year. The initiative is focused on convincing African diaspora around the world to “come home.”
Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, made the initiative official in September 2018 in Washington, D.C., when he announced the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019.”
“We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they [Africans in the diaspora] made to the lives of the Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year — 400 years later — we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices,” he said at the time.
Notably, the Ghanian president used the occasion to mark the 400-year anniversary of the first slave ship that left for what would become the U.S. state of Virginia — though the American continent then was being colonized by Europeans including the British, French, and Spanish.
Though it would occur hundreds of years later, it was after the colonies officially became the United States of America that slavery was abolished following the Civil War. And it was the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who presided over the Union’s effort to defeat the Confederacy and end slavery throughout the country.
Efforts to ban the practice as the country expanded westward in the preceding decades had already begun. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 banned slavery in the Northwest Territories, and Congress banned the African slave trade in 1807. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 further limited the spread of slavery throughout the new country.
Also, as Lincoln noted in an 1854 speech, many of our founders cast blame at British monarch King George for allowing the practice in the New World in the first place.
As for Ghana’s ‘return home’ initiative, it has successfully attracted some black Americans.
“When we start with the fun, they see that traveling to Africa is not that bad,” Jewel Thompson, an Atlanta native now living in Ghana, told NBC News. “It’s not all safaris and beaches. There’s more than just what you think you understand about the continent, and especially about Ghana.”