Skip to ArticleSkip to Radioplayer

Fact-based journalism is worth fighting for.

Aug 24, 2019

Year of return

Co-produced with PRX Logo

Four hundred years ago this month, English pirates brought enslaved Africans to America’s shores. We reflect on how the legacy of slavery has reverberated through the generations to the present.

We begin in Ghana, a place of pilgrimage for African Americans who are tracing their roots. Reporter Rupa Shenoy of the public radio program “The World” introduces us to a woman who first traveled to Ghana in the 1960s and eventually moved there permanently. She now runs a reconciliation program where American descendants meet with tribal elders in an attempt to reconcile the painful history of slavery.

Next, host Al Letson speaks with Nikole Hannah-Jones, a MacArthur genius and New York Times Magazine journalist. She argues that the arrival of the first enslaved Africans was an elemental moment in the nation’s history and that the founding principles of American democracy were not true until enslaved people and their descendants made them true.  

We end with Letson recounting a trip he made to the African nation of Malawi several years ago. For most of his visit, he struggled to relate to the place and its people. Then, an unexpected encounter on his last day gave him a deep sense of connection, as well as insight into the shared experience of slavery.

Dig Deeper


This week’s show was produced by Ike Sriskandarajah and edited by Jen Chien, Kevin Sullivan, and Taki Telonidis. 

Reported by Rupa Shenoy with field producer Selase Kove-Seyram.

Our production manager is Mwende Hinojosa. Original score and sound design by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, who had help from Najib Aminy. Hosted by Al Letson.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Found, the Heising-Simons Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.