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What Is Africa to Me Now?

The Politics of Unhappy Returns

Christine Levecq

Accounts of African American journeys to Africa have long functioned as ways to comment on social, psychological, and political conditions at home. This article surveys a number of such works written since the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, and notes that the trend continues, albeit with different emphases. For Maya Angelou in All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) and Saidiya Hartman in Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007), the journey leads to a renewed call for solidarity at home and in the world. Conversely, some journalists such as Howard French provide insightful and moving commentary on a continent all too easily subsumed in a discourse of despair; still others, like Keith Richburg, use Africa as a platform for a radically conservative approach to the politics of the global community.