Family Across the Sea, Part 4
Like the Black Seminoles who fled white civilization, blacks began to return to Africa in the 19th century. Historian Alpha Bah has studied the return of blacks to Sierra Leone, and cites the lingering dissatisfaction that led to the return of Charlestonian Edward Jones, one of the first black graduates from a predominantly white institution, Amherst College, to return. By the late 1830s, he was living in Freetown, working as a teacher and a preacher. In 1841, he became the first black principal of Fourah Bay Christian College, later Fourah Bay College, one of the first institutions of higher learning in black Africa.
Over a year had passed since the original invitation to Sierra Leone. Alpha Bah's work helped him to observe the Gullah homecoming, as he served as liaison and guide to the delegation. For President Joseph Momoh, this was a chance to show his thanks for his visit to South Carolina and to Penn Center, saying, "It is always a very, very good feeling for one to be able to rediscover one's lost parents."
The week-long visit in Sierra Leone provided an opportunity for state dinners, and for sharing African music and African foods. During the daytime, away from Freetown, the Gullahs engaged in a pilgrimage to the grim slave yard of Bunce. Back on Hilton Head Island, Emory Campbell said, "The main wound that's healed, I think, is the fact that now I know there's a place that I can go and call home. I know where home is now. and before then, somebody had described the Negro in America as a person without roots. But now I know I have roots, so that's been healed."
*President Joseph Saidu Momoh served as President of Sierra Leone from November 1985 to April 1992.