Black Americans reconnect with ancestral history in Ghana, where slaves left Africa

Actor Boris Kodjoe has made it a mission to bring the Black diaspora back to Africa. Tourism has boomed in Ghana recently, where people visit former slave trade sites, like the “Door of No Return.”
6:25 | 02/27/21

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:

{{nextVideo.title}}

{{nextVideo.description}}

Skip to this video now

Now Playing:

{{currentVideo.title}}

Comments
Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Black Americans reconnect with ancestral history in Ghana, where slaves left Africa
Reporter: Cape coast with atlantic vast waters near the shore of Ghana. This castle hosts a history that belies its beauty. Even though you may not know the village you come from, the family you come from, this is one of the last places our ancestors touched before leaving these shores. Reporter: The door of no return, where millions of Africans were forced into slave ships bound for the united States. It brought me to tears. You can literally feel yourselves standing on the backs of your ancestors. "Standing on the back of the people who came before you." That's literally now. I want to know the people in the culture, I want to know what culture was taken from me. Reporter: Descendents of slaves come here to reconnect with their ancestors, a full-circle moment centuries in the making. Rabbi chain moved to Ghana from New York and now gives doors. That's why they say it's the door of no return. They believed at that time if they erased all those things from us, we'd never find our way back home. But look at the resilience of the African spirit, look at who you and I are, that we made our way back home. Reporter: In this moment of reckoning when African-Americans are setting out to reclaim what they've been historically denied, for some to be able to fully move forward requires a look back. A lot of the issues we're dealing with as African-Americans are embedded in this sort of generational disconnect. The trauma, the terror of being stripped of your rights, your identity, your culture. And to be the first in your family to rediscover that, we connect with that ancestry, and be empowered by it, gives you a whole new perspective on yourself and your life. When you walk the paths of the dungeons at these slave castles, you realize that that moment that you're not a descendent of slaves, but you're a descendent of survivors. Reporter: For actor Boris cojo, returning to Africa started as a personal pilgrimage. He was born in Vienna ghanan mother and Austrian father. I know the heritage, it fills you with a sense of identity, a sense of culture, heritage, defining who I am based on whose shoulders I'm standing on. I'm going to let you in on a secret. Reporter: The "Station 19" heartthrob known for fox's "The last man on Earth." Carol is a special lady. So you're the attorney I'm supposed to hire? Reporter: And the film "Brown sugar." You could be my mentor. Reporter: Cojo cofounded the full circle festival in 2018 to encourage the black diaspora to reconnect, and for those descended from the enslaved to visit and invest in Africa. Organizing trips for other black Hollywood stars to discover their roots, capturing them on film, including "Black-ish" Anthony Anderson. Everything has a beginning, everything has an end. You know? I'm standing at the beginning. Coming back in from the door of no return and returning, both times I just felt better. There's always people who greet you on the other side. And it's just been like that this whole time of just this really -- this intense, emotional roller coaster that is worth the journey every time. Reporter: For cojo, this mission is about much more than a festival. It's about telling the truth about our history. Lingering emotional and economic effects of colonialism. So there is this disparity that has been, you know, carried from one generation to the next over hundreds and hundreds of years. You know, the goal is to first acknowledge our history and realize that this generational wealth didn't just appear, but it was systemically prepared, and there were mechanisms put in place to ensure that certain people were at an advantage and others weren't. And that there's action items, there's actually certain steps we can undertake collectively to reduce that wealth gap and to make things right. Together on both sides of the atlantic, we will work together to make sure that never again will we allow a handful of people with superior technology to walk into Africa, seize our peoples, and sell them into slavery. Reporter: To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the transatlantic slave trade, Ghana's president encouraged descendents to visit, dubbing 2019 the rear of return. Nearly a million tourists came to the country that year, most of them from the United States, raising hopes for a decade of growth in tourism. We're seeing increase in interest in things like ancestry tests, connections, finding ancestral homelands, things like that. All these things are connected, particularly as African-Americans essentially come to terms with the failures of American institutions, while also seeking a sense of pride in their ancestry, in their DNA, in their origins. We are so glad to be back home in Ghana where our great, great, great ancestors are from. I came all the way from new York, 5,117 miles. I feel immediate connection to the land. So I'm just -- I'm ready to see what else the land has to offer. So our ancestors believed, if you walk barefoot, you connected all the time with its strength and its power. Reporter: Though the pandemic has slowed down trips, now more and more black Americans are engaging with their history. Today you're going to be blessed. Africa's on the rise. African people are also ascenting. It was always my dream to come to Africa. To finally be able to come over here, it's a dream come true. It's kind of overwhelming, very elating. Our thanks to Byron.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"6:25","description":"Actor Boris Kodjoe has made it a mission to bring the Black diaspora back to Africa. Tourism has boomed in Ghana recently, where people visit former slave trade sites, like the “Door of No Return.”","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Nightline","id":"76151717","title":"Black Americans reconnect with ancestral history in Ghana, where slaves left Africa","url":"/Nightline/video/black-americans-reconnect-ancestral-history-ghana-slaves-left-76151717"}