African & American: West Africans in Post-Civil Rights America

African & American: West Africans in Post-Civil Rights America

African & American: West Africans in Post-Civil Rights America

African & American: West Africans in Post-Civil Rights America

Synopsis

African & American tells the story of the much overlooked experience of first and second generation West African immigrants and refugees in the United States during the last forty years. Interrogating the complex role of post-colonialism in the recent history of black America, Marilyn Halter and Violet Showers Johnson highlight the intricate patterns of emigrant work and family adaptation, the evolving global ties with Africa and Europe, and the translocal connections among the West African enclaves in the United States.

Drawing on a rich variety of sources, including original interviews, personal narratives, cultural and historical analysis, and documentary and demographic evidence, African & American explores issues of cultural identity formation and socioeconomic incorporation among this new West African diaspora. Bringing the experiences of those of recent African ancestry from the periphery to the center of current debates in the fields of immigration, ethnic, and African American studies, Halter and Johnson examine the impact this community has had on the changing meaning of "African Americanness" and address the provocative question of whether West African immigrants are, indeed, becoming the newest African Americans.

Excerpt

In West Africa, the griot is a staple in the preservation and presentation of the history of the region and the people. Griots, also known as wandering musicians, move extensively within their communities and beyond. in the process they expand their outlook and collect numerous diverse experiences that shape their craft. Although, fundamentally, griots’ expertise is endogamous, as it is handed from one generation to another, they are also known to move beyond traditional familial and social borders. Their journeys take them to new locations where they may meet others like them with whom they join forces to develop and recount stories of a particular people.

In many ways we see ourselves as such collaborating griots who have broken from the ingrown dictates of the craft and who have brought together the experiences of our travels to tell the stories of West Africans in the United States. We are daughters of two diasporas who have embarked from different shores: Violet from West Africa—from Lagos to Kaduna to Freetown. While she was being introduced to civil rights history by a white Peace Corps volunteer, who shared his Ebony magazine with the neighborhood kids, Marilyn was moving from her tiny Jewish community in northern Minnesota to New England to experience the civil rights and social justice movements as a college student. As Violet was leaving Africa for the first time and launching her transnational travels within Canada and England before finally coming to the United States, Marilyn had found her way to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Cape Verdean Americans. Several years later, our paths crossed intellectually and the wandering griots finally met to begin our own intricate collaboration. Our partnership is very much representative of this West African genre as we continue to move within the society we study and in how we have shaped this project. Whether watching . . .

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