Pan-African professor speaks to students about reverse diaspora

Tim Magaw

After being freed from slavery, many Africans returned to their homeland.

Associate Professor Christopher Williams spoke to a group of about 35 people yesterday afternoon about this reverse diaspora as part of the department of Pan-African Studies Ebony Speakers Series, which is co-sponsored by the Institute for African-American Affairs.

A diaspora is the distribution of people from their homeland.

“Normally, when you see the diaspora, they rarely go back,” Williams said.

The two countries most affected by the reverse diaspora were Liberia and Sierra Leone, where Williams is from.

In 1816, Williams said the American Colonization Society was formed by whites to encourage free blacks to return to Africa once they were freed from slavery. Since then, Williams said the group has historically been viewed as philanthropic. But in the last 30 years, historians have viewed the ACS as negrophobic, meaning it was a group that feared blacks.

Williams said this group believed that if freed blacks were around slaves, they would cause a slave rebellion.

Once many of the freed slaves returned to Africa, there was a culture clash between them and the natives.

“They came to see the African natives just as the Europeans saw the African natives,” Williams said, adding that the freed slaves had been “Westernized.”

Trent Stinnett, senior justice studies major, said he thought Williams’ speech was educational.

“I felt it was definitely a lot of information to retain like the dates,” Stinnett said, “but it was definitely relevant.”

Stinnett said he liked hearing about the future of his culture and race.

“The speaker series was established over the years to give faculty of color the opportunity to speak about their interests,” said Mwatabu Okantah, assistant professor and director of the Center for Pan-African Culture. “As students, we often don’t know what professors do besides teach.”

The next speaker for the series is Joan Southgate, author of Their Path: A Grandmother’s 519 Mile Underground Railroad Walk. She will speak at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 15 in Room 107A of Oscar Ritchie Hall.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].