BLACK ZION by David Jenkins


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The idea of Africa has indeed played a large part in the historical consciousness of American black people, from the 18th and 19th century debates over repatriation on through Marcus Garvey, Stokely Carmichael's admiration for Nkrumah, and the growth of a third-world identity. Jenkins at first seems poised to answer Countee Cullen's question ""What is Africa to me?"" but the field of his investigation is almost entirely limited to those New World Blacks who actually made the Return--colonizers in Liberia and Sierra Leone and, especially, contemporary Afro-Americans who have resettled in West Africa. Jenkins draws a bleak picture of Monrovia, where a lucky elite has been able to create its own ""black Connecticut."" ' But the reactions of emigrants in Ghana, Nigeria and even Sierra Leone vary widely, with those who anticipated a spiritual homecoming often the most disillusioned while others, who still consider themselves first of all Americans (or West Indians) frequently express deep satisfaction with their adopted culture. Jenkins' repeated reluctance to draw ""generalizations"" (or, more accurately, to formulate those that are implicit) can be annoying; however his history of repatriation, as ideal and reality, does capture the complex motivations and adjustments involved. And, most important, he gives us generous slices of his own interviews with today's expatriates--remnants of Rastifarian and Black Hebrew settlements, businessmen, the wives of African students--whose attempts to find their own personal bridge to Africa are affecting and highly informative.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich