Lesson Plans

Exploring Repatriation: Black Americans Follow in W.E.B. Du Bois's Footsteps

Annabelle McKenzie moved to Ghana from New York. Image by Lottie Joiner. Ghana, 2020.

Annabelle McKenzie moved to Ghana from New York. Image by Lottie Joiner. Ghana, 2020.

Objectives:

Students will be able to...

  • Summarize why some Black Americans have chosen to leave their lives in the United States for Ghana
  • Analyze the benefits these Americans enjoy in Ghana, as well as the challenges they face
  • Connect current events to the study of prominent figures and moments in Black History

Warm-up: 

1. Think about the stories that you hear in the news about immigration.

  • What is immigration?
  • Where are the immigrants you hear about in the news usually coming from? Where are they usually going?
  • What are some of the reasons for international migration that you’ve heard about in the news?

2. The reporting we will explore in this lesson tells the stories of people who have left the United States to live in another country. What are some reasons why you think someone might do that?

3. This reporting features four Black Americans who have left the United States for Ghana, a country in West Africa whose capital city is Accra. 

  • If you have never been, what images come to mind when you think of Ghana? Of the African continent more generally?
  • Where do these images come from? How have you learned about Ghana and the African continent?

4. What predictions can you make about why these Black Americans might have chosen to permanently relocate to West Africa? What challenges might they face?

Introducing the Lesson:

This lesson explores the news story, “Blacks in Ghana: Welcome Home” by Pulitzer Center grantee Lottie Joiner for the Crisis Magazine, the official publication for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP was founded by W.E.B. Du Bois, an American sociologist, civil rights activist, historian, and Pan-Africanist who himself relocated to Ghana after a lifetime of fighting for justice for Black Americans.

Joiner’s reporting looks at why four Black Americans have left the United States to live permanently in Ghana, as well as at why they identify as “repatriates” rather than “expatriates.” The story looks at the upsides of living in Ghana for these Black Americans—from lower cost of living to fresh food to the sense of freedom felt at no longer being part of a marginalized racial minority—as well as the challenges they face.

This project also features reporting on the 2019 Year of Return, a Ghanaian government initiative that marked 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in the American colonies. Curricular resources for The 1619 Project from the New York Times Magazine, which also explores the legacy of American slavery, can be found here.

Some useful vocabulary for this lesson:

Introducing the Resource:

Individually or in pairs, read “Blacks in Ghana: Welcome Home” by Lottie Joiner. Respond to the following comprehension questions as you read, and then share your answers with the rest of your class.

1. Annabelle McKenzie states that she considers herself a repatriate rather than an expatriate.

  • What is the difference between the two terms?
  • Why does she prefer the term “repatriate”?

2. McKenzie also says that her life has become less stressful since her move to Ghana. What reasons does she give for this?

3. Rabbi Halevi described his first trip to Africa as a pilgrimage, a journey to a sacred place. Why does he consider Africa sacred?

4. What are some of the challenges that the repatriates face, according to the article?

5. The article states that “living while Black has become more difficult.” What evidence does the journalist provide to support this statement?

Discussion:

In a class-wide discussion, reflect on the following questions:

1. The article includes the following quote from Rabbi Halevi: “After all these years of our investment in America, our protection of America, our building of America, America still was not sure about accepting us. I said in my mind that we need alternatives.” 

  • What do you think Rabbi Halevi is referring to when he mentions Black Americans’ “investment in America”? What about the “protection of America”? The “building of America”?
  • What evidence do you see for the claim that “America still [is] not sure about accepting [Black Americans]”? Do you agree? Why or why not?

2. Annabelle McKenzie alludes to some Americans’ misconceptions of Ghana.

  • What misconceptions does she identify?
  • Refer back to your earlier discussion of images that come to mind when you think of Ghana or the African continent. How did the images that came to mind when you think about Ghana compare to the way the country was described in the article? Do you think any of those initial images might be misconceptions? Why?
  • Given your earlier discussion of where your mental images of Ghana might come from, what could be the causes of these misconceptions?

3. W.E.B. Du Bois called Africa the “spiritual frontier of human kind.”

  • Do you think today’s repatriates agree with his characterization of the continent? Why or why not?
  • What quotes can you draw from the text to support your stance?

4. Annabelle enjoys not having to “adjust who I am in situations...In Ghana, I don’t have to deal with the microaggressions of working in an office where I’m the only Black person.”

  • What is a microaggression?
  • Note to educators: if students feel comfortable, this could be an opportunity to have wider class discussions on how students might experience microaggressions in school or in their daily lives and how the class can avoid and combat them. For support, here is a student-friendly elaboration of what microaggressions are and how to avoid them, and this resource provides insight on how to address implicit bias and microaggressions in the classroom. 
  • Where have you experienced, or heard about, microaggressions in your life or the lives of people you know?

5. Annabelle also says that more Black Americans will move to Africa following “the violence that happened in Charlottesville, Va. after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.”

  • What violence is she referring to?
  • Given your own experiences and those of the repatriates’ you've read about, do you agree with her? Why or why not?

6. Given your earlier discussion of what immigration stories you usually encounter in the news, how are the stories of the repatriates in “Blacks in Ghana: Welcome Home'' different from the immigration stories you are most familiar with? How are they similar?

Extension Activities:

Option 1: Poetry writing

Use this reporting to create original poetry as a way to connect current events to your local and personal context and make your voice heard. The Pulitzer Center hosts an annual student poetry contest, Fighting Words, and offers cash prizes and publication of the winning poems on our website.

Writing a Fighting Words poem involves highlighting phrases in the reporting that jump out as important, interesting or beautiful—and that capture the feeling of the story—to create a cento or found poem. For detailed instructions and contest guidelines, click here.

Option 2: Research project

This reporting provides connections between current stories about Black Americans and the life of a prominent Black historical figure, W.E.B. Du Bois. Undertake a research project to learn more about influential Black Americans in history and how their lives or activism connects to our present day.

1. Choose a prominent figure in Black History. Here is a resource you can use to get you started in researching figures who speak to you. 

2. As you learn more about your chosen subject, think about how their life and story relate to things you see happening in the news today and in your current world. 

3. Write a research paper or make a presentation to your class about how the experiences of your chosen figure in Black History relate to today’s challenges and current events.

Educator Notes: 

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

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