Students reflect on an educational—and emotional—trip to Ghana

This is an expanded version of the roundtable discussion that appeared in the spring 2020 issue of Arches.

A person posing for the camera

The history of Ghana, on Africa’s western coast, is, in part, a brutal one. From the 1500s through the 1800s, it was a centerpiece of the European slave trade, with millions of Africans captured, marched to the coast, held in dungeons in “slave castles,” and ultimately put onto boats for the Americas, to spend the rest of their lives in slavery. Visitors to Ghana today can learn about that history as well as the country’s vibrant current culture—from its kente weaving villages to its cities, its languages, its food, and its people. Over the winter break earlier this year, 17 Puget Sound students, led by Visiting Assistant Professor in African American Studies LaToya Brackett (pictured at right), spent three weeks in Ghana, on the first Puget Sound course trip to the African continent. For the students—some black, some biracial, some Latina/o, some white, and all but one female—the trip was the culmination of the class AFAM 310, African Diaspora Experience, which began in the fall. In February, we brought seven of the participating students together in Wheelock Student Center and asked them to reflect on their experiences. Melvin Rouse Jr., assistant professor of psychology, moderated the discussion, which lasted nearly three and a half hours. What follows has been edited for length and clarity.