Year of Return

Aug 23, 2019

Four hundred years ago this month, English pirates brought enslaved Africans to America’s shores. We reflect on how the legacy of slavery has reverberated through the generations to the present.

We begin in Ghana, a place of pilgrimage for African Americans who are tracing their roots. Reporter Rupa Shenoy of the public radio program, The World, introduces us to a woman who first traveled to Ghana in the 1960s, and eventually moved there permanently. She now runs a reconciliation program where American descendents of slaves meet with tribal elders in an attempt to reconcile the painful history of slavery.

Next, Al speaks with Nikole Hannah-Jones, a MacArthur Genius and New York Times Magazine journalist. She argues that the arrival of the first slaves was an elemental moment in the nation’s history, and that the founding principles of American democracy were not true until enslaved people and their descendants made them true.  


We end with host Al Letson recounting a trip he made to the African nation of Malawi several years ago. For most of his visit, Al struggled to relate to the place and its people. Then, an unexpected encounter on his last day gave him a deep sense of connection, as well as insight into the shared experience of slavery.