In 1962 Maya Angelou joined a community of “Revolutionist Returnees” – African Americans who were inspired by the idea of pan-Africanism and chose to move to Africa to reclaim their identities as Africans. She was actually in Ghana during the same time that Malcolm X did his famous tour of Africa, and he mentions meeting her in his biography.
I lay on my bed drinking for myself and for all the nameless orphans of Africa who had been shunted around the world. I drank and admitted to a boundless envy of those who remained on the continent, our of fortune or perfidy. Their countries had been exploited and their cultures had been discredited by colonialism. Nonetheless, they could reflect through their priests and chiefs on centuries of continuity. The lowliest could could call the name of ancestors who lived centuries earlier. The land upon which they lived had been in their people’s possession beyond remembered time. Despite political bondage and economic exploitation, they had retained an ineradicable innocence.
I doubted if I, or any Black from the diaspora, could really return to Africa. We wore skeletons of old despair like necklaces, heralding our arrival, and we were branded with cynicism. In America we danced, laughed, procreated; we became lawyers, judges, legislators, teachers, doctors, and preachers, but as always, under our glorious costumes we carried the badge of a barbarous history sewn to our dark skins. It had often been said that Black people were childish, but in America we had matured without ever experiencing the true abandon of adolescence. Those actions which appeared to be childish more often were exhibitions of bravado, not unlike the humming of a jazz tune while walking into a gathering of the Ku Klux Klan.
(Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, 1986, p.76)