African Americans And African American Diaspora Studies

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A question that is commonly returned to in African American diaspora studies is how much should African roots be considered in the study of African American culture, and how much influence should African heritage have on black individuals. For Columbia professor Saidiya Hartman, this question could only be answered by returning to the motherland. Through her journey to Ghana, Hartman is able to redefine her identity as an African American woman and better understand her relationship to the country her ancestors were torn from. Hartman went on this journey in order to find her own connection to her African heritage. As a graduate student doing research on slavery, she stumbled upon a reference to her great-great grandmother. Hartman was only served disappointment as she read further. When her kin was asked what she remembered about being a slave, her answer was simple: “Not a thing.” As she reaches out to family to learn more about their history with slavery, she is thwarted and discouraged at every attempt. This is what leads Hartman to “fill in the blank spaces of the historical record and to represent the lives of those deemed unworthy of remembering” (16).
As she says it, Hartman goes to Ghana “in search of strangers” (6). While she is not searching for a home in Ghana, she is searching for a sense of solidarity and shared stories. She recognizes before going to Ghana that her blackness did not secure familiarity with natives, but this is constantly reaffirmed.
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