African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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Sharing Stories: One Family's Story
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my mother Nigeria 1900s Nigeria my family in Nigeria

I am the first child in my family born in the United States. Both of my parents are from Nigeria- they are Yoruba. Last February I had the most honorable opportunity to vist Nigeria for the first time. There I had met many relatives that I only knew by voice. It was truly a life changing experience. During my trip I went to the house where my mother was raised in Ondo State. Pictures lined the walls of all 11 of her half brothers and sisters, her father and her grandfather (my great grandfather). I recognized the picture of my grandfather immediately, but the one picture i did not recognize was that of my great grandfather. He was a light-skinned and had light eyes. This sparked my curiosity as to his background. I asked my great-aunts and like oral history goes- there is never a straight answer.

I finally got a rough story of the birth history of this man, my great grand-father. At the height of colonialism in Nigeria, many European missionaries were given exclusive access to the remote and "bare" villages of the country. My great-grandfather's village was one of those areas. My mother told me that a Portuguese missionary had relations with a man and ended up leaving the village in shame because of what she had. It wasn't that big of a deal apparently because they raised the boy as if he were any other Nigerian child. I was told by my grandaunts that they used to tease the boy and call him "Oyinbo" which means white man in Yoruba. Needless to say, the boy grew up to be a strong and loyal man who bore my grandfather Chief Samuel Akinwande- he then ironically married a woman who was also fair-skin. They had my mother and my mother had me and my brother. My brother is quite light and is often times mistaken for a Latino. I used to tease him and say the Milk man was his daddy- the same way our great-grandfather was teased.

I know there is an extensive history that stems to Europe, particularly Portugal. I often think about what ever happened to the woman who gave birth to my great grandfather and whether or not there is a family somewhere that resembles my own.

Thank you Mr. Gates for opening the gates for not just African Americans to explore their history but for American Africans to appreciate their own.

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Major corporate funding for African American Lives 2 and its outreach initiatives is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson. Additional corporate funding is provided by Buick.
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