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The Impossibility of Return: Black Women's Migrations to Africa

The Impossibility of Return: Black Women's Migrations to Africa The Impossibility of Return Black Women's Migrations to Africa piper kendrix williams I was on an international flight, traveling from New York to Paris, when an older French woman inquired about my origins. She began with the questions about where I was from that seem to attend many trans-Atlantic encounters, deftly moving from geography to race when seemingly exasperated by my answers of America, Connecticut, and, finally, the place of my birth, Atlanta, Georgia. She finally asked, "But where were your people from before that?" Clearly she was asking about social or racial origins, not national ones. I told her I was African American with African, European, and Native American ancestry, but because I could trace back seven generations in the U.S., I could not tell her where "my people were from before," although Africa seemed a good if not vague and oversimplified answer. Of course, I had to wonder, "before" what, the Atlantic slave trade, miscegenation, (un)forced migrations, returns and departures? This woman's need to know my race exemplifies the preoccupation many people have with origins, other people's as well as their own. It is as if she felt that when she could identify me within an http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies University of Nebraska Press

The Impossibility of Return: Black Women's Migrations to Africa

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 by Frontiers Editorial Collective.
ISSN
1536-0334
Publisher site
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Abstract

The Impossibility of Return Black Women's Migrations to Africa piper kendrix williams I was on an international flight, traveling from New York to Paris, when an older French woman inquired about my origins. She began with the questions about where I was from that seem to attend many trans-Atlantic encounters, deftly moving from geography to race when seemingly exasperated by my answers of America, Connecticut, and, finally, the place of my birth, Atlanta, Georgia. She finally asked, "But where were your people from before that?" Clearly she was asking about social or racial origins, not national ones. I told her I was African American with African, European, and Native American ancestry, but because I could trace back seven generations in the U.S., I could not tell her where "my people were from before," although Africa seemed a good if not vague and oversimplified answer. Of course, I had to wonder, "before" what, the Atlantic slave trade, miscegenation, (un)forced migrations, returns and departures? This woman's need to know my race exemplifies the preoccupation many people have with origins, other people's as well as their own. It is as if she felt that when she could identify me within an

Journal

Frontiers: A Journal of Women StudiesUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Jan 17, 2006

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