My Great-Grandfather, the Nigerian Slave-Trader

“Are you not ashamed of what he did?” I asked.

“I can never be ashamed of him,” he said, irritated. “Why should I be? His business was legitimate at the time. He was respected by everyone around.” My father is a lawyer and a human-rights activist who has spent much of his life challenging government abuses in southeast Nigeria. He sometimes had to flee our home to avoid being arrested. But his pride in his family was unwavering. “Not everyone could summon the courage to be a slave trader,” he said. “You had to have some boldness in you.”

…During the ceremony, I was overwhelmed with relief. My family was finally taking a step beyond whispering and worrying. Of course, nothing can undo the harm that Nwaubani Ogogo caused. And the ohu, who are not his direct descendants, were not invited to the ceremony; their mistreatment in the region continues. Still, it felt important for my family to publicly denounce its role in the slave trade. “Our family is taking responsibility,” my cousin Chidi, who joined from London, told me. Chioma, who took part in Atlanta, said, “We were trying to make peace and atone for what our ancestors did.”

My Great-Grandfather, the Nigerian Slave-Trader | The New Yorker

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