The Past Never Dies: Historical Memory of the Slave Trade and Relationship between African Americans and Contemporary Migrants from Africa to the US
The article is based on field evidence collected in seven states in 2013–2015. It shows how differences in the historic memory of African Americans and African migrants influence their mutual perceptions and relationship. Both groups ’collective memory and mass consciousness of the transatlantic slave trade is most important in this respect. The slave trade is the event that gave rise to the very phenomenon of Black Americans and to the problem of the “Black world” and its historical unity. This article argues that the historic memory of the slave trade, slavery, and the fight against it is of key importance to African Americans’ historic consciousness. This memory is also important to Africans; however, not to the same degree. Secondly, Africans see the slave trade differently, not as a history not of Blacks’ betrayal by other Blacks, but of exploitation of the Blacks by the Whites. Significant differences in the perception, estimation, and importance attached to the slave trade, slavery and anti-slavery struggle separate these two groups of the Black population rather than unite them in the face of “White” America. The lack of the sense of historic unity alienates African Americans and African migrants from each other spiritually and mentally, thus contributing to the establishment of an ambiguous and complicated relationship between them.