Tag Archives: Ghana

African American Identification with Ghana Before Genetic Genealogy

African American identification with being part of the African diaspora varied throughout time, place, and circumstance. In the U.S. where society is still battling with institutional racism and personal prejudices against people racialized as Black and against people from Africa [cite], it can be difficult to identify publicly with the African ethnic homeland. Despite the difficulty, there is a growing trend of African Americans doing just that.

For African Americans, the choice to identify publicly with their ethnic homeland of Africa was not easy and sometimes politically motivated. For many African descendants, aspirations of freedom included the liberation of Africa from colonial rule and a return to the African continent. Beginning in the 1920s, Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) promoted the mission of African liberation and uniting the Black people of the world. Garveyism was well known for its “Back to Africa” ideology, which gave the African diaspora a charge of developing Africa. Garveyism also included a charge for the African diaspora to uplift members of the Black race from the effects of slavery and discrimination in every country where Black people lived. It was a working class movement and, at its peak, had 6 million members in the Black world (Guridy, 2010). It carried the ideal of being able to both return “home” to uplift the ethnic homeland of Africa while also experiencing full citizenship in their birth countries where their African ancestors developed through forced labor and severe limitations on self-determination.

However, Marcus Garvey envisioned an Africa that was in need redemption (Kendi, 2016; Walters, 1993). He promoted the narrative that people of African descent were genetically inferior, a narrative which continued until W. E. B. Dubois’s 1908 publication and E. Franklin Fraizer’s 1932 publication stating that Black people were actually socially pathological rather than genetically pathological (Dilworth-Anderson et al., 2009). This rationale was partly based on Fraizer’s observation that as Black people gained upward mobility and moved away from poorer Black neighbors, their lifestyles were more aligned with White Americans (Dilworth-Anderson et al., 2009). The Black elite class of the time encouraged the cultural assimilation of White American cultural values, particularly the function and structure of White American middle-class families and their gender norms (Dilworth-Anderson et al., 2009; Kendi, 2016).

What became the racial uplift ideology of respectability not only regarded the highly functional Black extended family structure as pathological (Wilson, 1986) and African peoples and cultures as inferior (Kendi, 2016), Black American elites also held White American middle-class values as the standard by which to judge other Black Americans. They reasoned that showing this form of moral standing would help to reduce anti-Black racism from White people (Kevin Kelly Gaines, 1996; Kendi, 2016). Those considered as different from this narrow representation of morality were shunned within their communities (Collins, 2005; Kevin Kelly Gaines, 1996). While many ascribed to Black respectability politics regardless of their education or income levels, others sought to identity with Africa due to their ancestral heritage and common racialization.

Therefore, in 1957, when Ghana became the first African nation to gain independence from colonial rule, many people of the African diaspora celebrated their victory and drew inspiration from the possibilities of a liberated Africa. Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, invited many African, West Indian, and African American dignitaries to attend the ceremonies celebrating the birth of the nation of Ghana (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008). According to Gaines (2008), these members of the African diaspora held positions almost on par with the Duchess of York in the independence ceremonies (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008).

From the late 50s to the late 60s, as struggles continued for decolonization in Africa, many members of the African diaspora in the U.S. continued to fight for civil rights. The U.S. South fought for desegregation while the U.S. North spoke up for African liberation and began calling themselves by the ethnic reference of “Afro-American”. During this time, many in the U.S. diaspora location also emigrated from the U.S. to Africa via Ghana (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008). “At the height of the civil rights movement, from the late 1950s to 1966, scores of African Americans, including intellectuals, technicians, teachers, artists, professionals, entrepreneurs, and trade unionists, left the United States for Ghana” (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008, p. 6).

While segments of the African diaspora, such Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers, pushed for civil rights through integration, others, such sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, regarded the pursuit of integration as a compromise for social justice. Frazier saw the U.S. federal government as co-opting integration as a Cold War, top-down tactic adopted because of international criticism from countries of color. He felt that this legalistic approach to integration would not improve the socioeconomic conditions of the African diaspora in the U.S. Frazier also opposed the condition attached to federal support for integration which effectively required that the African diaspora reject all except an U.S. national identification (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008).

Some African Americans, such as Julian Mayfield, rejected Cold War censorship which resulted in them fleeing to Ghana. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah welcomed dissenting African Americans and explicitly encouraged people of African descent to emigrate from Western countries and relocate to Ghana to help build the nation. As African Americans did so, many were not rejecting the U.S. specifically. They were rejecting the harsh treatment that Blacks faced in the U.S. They also refused to have their identification with their African ethnic homeland to be censured by the U.S. federal government (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008).

Others, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. on his return from Ghana’s celebration of becoming an independent nation, decided to silence his identification with Africa and African liberation to pursue the American dream by pressing for legalized integration and assimilation. Towards the end of King’s life, he became more vocal about his critique of U.S. economic discrimination and foreign policy. Towards the end of Malcom X’s life, he too began to openly criticize U.S. policies toward Africa. As more and more African countries gained independence from colonial powers and former colonial rulers began shifting to neocolonial positions, the U.S. government moved to support U.S. financial strongholds in Africa while silencing those African descendent U.S. citizens who disagreed with the U.S. neocolonial practices in Africa. African Americans who were brave enough to speak out were considered unpatriotic and faced repercussions (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008).

With the assassination of major leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X (who both spoke of racial unity, economic equality, and African liberation increasing before being murdered) and leaders of self-determinate movements such as the Black Power movement murdered by the U.S. government or silenced, the federally supported top-down integration project moved forward. As long as African Americans were willing to silently and peacefully assimilate into the pursuit of an American Dream of individual family successes based on White standards, they would more likely achieve upward mobility. Whereas organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have worked tirelessly for legal wins against discrimination of Blacks, successes seemed to disproportionately benefit those already in positions of relatively individual financial privilege.   

In contemporary times, it is the African countries’ roots tourism industry, rather than major political figures, that seems to be inviting African Americans. The African Americans that create African transnational lifestyles for themselves are doing so less as a collective protest and more to pursue individual liberties.


Collins, P. H. (2005). Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. Routledge.

Dilworth-Anderson, P., Burton, L. M., & Johnson, L. B. (2009). Reframing theories for understanding race, ethnicity, and families. In Sourcebook of family theories and methods (pp. 627–649). Springer.

Gaines, Kevin K. (2008). American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era (1 edition). The University of North Carolina Press.

Gaines, Kevin Kelly. (1996). Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century (2nd ed.). The University of North Carolina Press.

Guridy, F. A. (2010). Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow (1 edition). The University of North Carolina Press.

Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. Nation Books.

Walters, R. W. (1993). Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora: An Analysis of Modern Afrocentric Political Movements. Wayne State University Press.

Wilson, M. N. (1986). The Black extended family: An analytical consideration. Developmental Psychology, 22(2), 246.

Ghana, Kassena: Finding Safiah’s Diaspora Relatives

Kabagworiwe Safiah and her parents Kabagworiwe Adam and Kabagworiwe Saleimabu are members of the Kassena ethnic group who have tested with Ancestry and subsequently had their DNA profiles uploaded to GEDmatch. This is a narrative of the practice of finding their relatives in GEDmatch.

I did a one-to-many comparison for Safiah to find all the matches in the GEDmatch database that match Safiah at a minimum of 7 cM. There were 129 matches, plus Safiah, for a total of 130. Among these matches were Safiah’s parents, Adam and Saleimabu, and several other family members from their local village of Nania in Paga, Ghana.

Kabagworiwe Safiah’s One-to-Many Comparison Results

It is very exciting to see these 129 matches for Safiah. There is a chance that all are true matches, but the reality is that some of these are not true matches. This is a reality of the testing technology and not GEDmatch.

Imagine that when the equipment reads the testers’ DNA, the 22 pairs of chromosomes were first broken into many pieces and duplicated. These were read and recorded into a text file. The equipment reads each chromosome piece and records it in the text file. Each position along the chromosome piece will have two reads, one for a biological mother and one for a biological father.

This situation is that when the pieces are recorded, it cannot tell which parent to assign the chromosome reads. The equipment only records what’s there but not how it was inherited. Sometimes the first variant is from the father and sometimes the first variant is from the mother. We just don’t know which is which without further analysis. This results in a text file with the chromosome positions read for the chromosome pairs without being aligned by a specific parent. This is an unphased DNA profile.

When the DNA profile is downloaded from Ancestry and uploaded to GEDmatch, the profile is unphased. Regular kits on GEDmatch are unphased kits. This is no fault of Ancestry or GEDmatch, but it is a reality that we must account for when finding matches.

The most accurate way to align the kit on GEDmatch is to test the person’s parents and create phased kits. In this case, Safiah’s parents have also tested and their kits were uploaded to GEDmatch. I used GEDmatch’s Phasing tool to create two phased kits for Safiah, one is phased with her mother’s kit (M1 kit) and one is phased with her father’s kit (P1 kit). These phased kits have Safiah’s DNA variants aligned by the parents so we know that the DNA segment was inherited by one (or both) parents.

Kabagworiwe Saleimabu, Safiah’s mother

At the very least, we should expect that when two persons match, at least one parent of both persons should also match. For any set of cousins, one parent for both cousins should also match. This is a fact of inheritance. There are sure to be some exceptions but this is the situation for the vast majority of the cases. For example, for any person that matches Safiah, we expect, at a very minimum, that the person also matches Safiah’s father Adam or Safiah’s mother Saleimabu. We also expect that Safiah matches at least one parent of that match.

Kabagworiwe Adam, Safiah’s father

So let’s see how many of Safiah’s 129 matches also match her father.

Kabagworiwe Safiah’s kit phased with her father

Using a one-to-many with Safiah’s P1 kit, her kit phased with her father, we see that she shares 44 matches with her father. Minus the kit itself, her, and her father, there are 41 matches.

And let’s take a look at how many of Safiah’s 129 matches also match her mother.

Kabagworiwe Safiah’s kit phased with her mother

Using a one-to-many with Safiah’s M1 kit, her kit phased with her mother, we see that she shares 47 matches with her father. Minus the kit itself, her, and her mother, there are 44 matches.

Alright, so there are 41 matches with father and 44 matches with mother for 85 matches. So of the 129 matches that Safiah started with, only 85 matches at most meet the basic expectation of also matching one of her parents. This is not yet addressing those that match both mother and father or some other reason to reduce the total count of matches.

At this point, I would say that Safiah has about 85 possible matches, some of which would prove to be false trough further analysis. I consider the following to be true matches: (1) kits that match Safiah’s unphased kits at a minimum of 15 cM on a single segment, (2) unphased kits that are 3 to 14.9 cMs with the Safiah’s unphased kit must also match at least one other of Safiah’s matches at a minimum of 200 cM total on an overlapping segment (e.g., using the 3D chromosome browser and triangulation), and (3) phased kits or Lazarus kits compared to Safiah’s phased kit can be at a minimum of 3 cMs.

It turns out that only 53% or 68 of the 129 matches remained after excluding those that did not also match her phased kits. However, all of the unphased matches at 14 cMs or more remained as possible matches after comparing the match with Safiah’s phased results. From this, we assume that any kit matching at least 15 cMs more will prove to be a true match even if their parents or other close match is not available to provide additional evidence.

Kabagworiwe Safiah’s Matches that Remained

In the chart above, cMs is the number of cMs in the match and S1 is the number of matches in Safiah’s unphased one-to-many comparison results. For example, using Safiah’s unphased kit, she had 9 matches at 40 cMs or greater, 2 matches at 30 cMs – 39 cMs, and 7 matches at 20 cMs – 29 cMs. At 13 cMs, 2 of the 4 kits that matched her unphased kit did not match at least one of her parents. At 7 cMs, only 21% of the matches also matched at least one of her parents. At this rate, we cannot tell which of the matches less than 14 cMs would remain as an inherited DNA segment when the person she matches also compares their results with their parents. This is why when working with unphased kits, we maintain the rule of 15 cMs minimum for a single segment.

I then use GEDmatch’s 3D chromosome browser to compare all of Safiah’s one-to-many matches with her M1 phased kit and her P1 phased kit. In the 3D chromosome browser results below are based on a 7 cM threshold. I also removed the kits that were in the TAKiR database (which would be other people from Ghana or Burkina Faso). This leaves a matrix comparing all the matching kits to determine how much they match each other.

In the 3D chromosome browser results, I look for kits that match each other at a minimum of 200 cMs. This would be a stand-in for not having their phased kit. This threshold of 200 cMs is not entirely arbitrary. It’s an amount where I assume would be at the bounds of a person being able to name the shared ancestor without DNA testing. According to statistics published by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), second cousins would share 212.5 cMs or 3.125% of DNA on average. In practice, according to statistics published by The Shared cM Project, second cousins share 233 cMs on average (46 – 515 cMs). Second cousins share great grandparents. Although the matches would more than likely be true at 15 cMs, using the 200 cM threshold would increase the chance of being able to contact the persons for the kits matching each other and confirming their relatedness.

Safiah’s M1 3D Chromosome Browser Results

In Safiah’s M1 3D results, there are 14 matches (7 pairs) that are of interest because they share 200 cMs or more total. An additional 6 matches (3 pairs) are also worth investigating because they share 15 cMs – 199.9 cMs total, though I need to check how much they share on a single segment.

Using the statistics published by ISOGG and The Shared cM Project, I hypothesize the following:

  • 3 pairs at about 3,500 cMs are parent-child
  • 1 pair at about 2,300 cMs are siblings, grandparent-grandchild, or uncle/aunt-niece/nephew
  • 3 pairs at about 1,600 – 1,700 cMs are grandparent-grandchild or uncle/aunt-niece/nephew
Safiah’s P1 3D Chromosome Browser Results

In Safiah’s P1 3D results, there are 18 matches (9 pairs) that are of interest because they share 200 cMs or more total. An additional 2 matches (1 pairs) are also worth investigating because they share 15 cMs – 199.9 cMs total, though I need to check how much they share on a single segment.

Using the statistics published by ISOGG and The Shared cM Project, I hypothesize the following:

  • 7 pairs at about 3,500 cMs are parent-child
  • 1 pair at about 2,600 cMs are siblings
  • 1 pairs at about 1,700 cMs are grandparent-grandchild or uncle/aunt-niece/nephew

So now I have 32 matches (14 + 18) that I am very confident are true matches. There is also an additional 8 matches (6 + 2) that I could check to see if they also share 15 cMs on a single segment.

Looking back at the 3D chromosome results for Safiah’s M1 and P1 kits, I now look at the first column. This columns tells me how much DNA each kit of interest shares with the key phased kits.

In the M1 results, matches in the first pair share 2,326.7 cMs with each other and, from column 1, 17.5 and 17.8 cMs with the M1 phased kit. I’m very confident that these two kits are true matches with Safiah and her mother, and I would contact them saying so.

In the M1 results, matches in the second pair share 1,626.3 cMs with each other and, from column 1, both share 8.1 cMs with the M1 phased kit. Based on the amount of shared DNA between each other, this pair is likely grandparent-grandchild (or uncle/aunt-niece/nephew). Because I’m using the M1 phased kit, I’m very confident that the shared segment is true between Safiah and her mother. However, using unphased kits for the possible grandparent-grandchild pair means that there is a chance that this 8.1 cM segment is not a truly inherited segment between the matches in the grandparent-grandchild pair. After all, only 69% of Safiah’s matches at 8 – 8.9 cMs also matched at least one of her parents (see Kabagworiwe Safiah’s Matches that Remained picture above). So there is a possibly that when aligned (i.e., phased), this segment would end up not being a true segment for the discovered grandparent-grandchild pair. At the same time, the kits in the grandparent-grandchild pair were read by the equipment separately and as such, this segment is more than likely not based on an error. I am fairly confident that this is a true match and would proceed with this pair as a true match. However, I would also encourage the grandparent-grandchild pair to create a phased or Lazarus kit (as I would encourage all potential matches to do) and use that to compare with Safiah’s phased kit for stronger evidence of relatedness.

This may seem like a lot of unnecessary steps, but Safiah’s P1 3D results illustrate why these steps are necessary. Recall that these matches were selected from Safiah’s P1 one-to-many comparison results. The first pairs share of interest are a block of 4 matches sharing at least 3,500 cMs with each other. However, looking at column 1, none of these matches actually share at least 7 cMs with Safiah and her father. In a one-to-one comparison between Safiah’s P1 kit and each of these 4 kits, none share a minimum of 3 cMs with Safiah and her father. This is a prime case of matches that appear to be true matches from a one-to-many comparison but ends up not really matching the key person on a one-to-one comparison even at a lower threshold. These would not be counted as true matches.

Using the 15 cM (or 14 cM from Kabagworiwe Safiah’s Matches that Remained picture above), of the 32 confident matches, only 4 are very confident matches, and an additional 4 are already shown to not really be matches after all. Testing additional people and/or phasing kits would provide additional evidence of relatedness and make for more certain matches, even with the actual shared ancestor remaining unknown.

It is exciting for all of us to find relatives. It’s exciting for people of African descent to find their relatives from Africa and it’s exciting for Safiah’s family to find the descendants of those who were taken away during slavery. However, in this excitement, it is important to maintain certain rules based on the technologies we are using to claim relatedness. People of African descent are increasing finding relatives from Africa so there’s no need to shortcut the verification process.

If you are related to Safiah, please send us your information so that we can send you Safiah’s contact information. Consider sending her family a gift to announce your newfound relatedness.