The woman who took on big companies with links to slavery
“I really wanted to know who I was”
Deadria Farmer-Paellmann grew up in Brooklyn, never knowing where in Africa her family were from. She found the term African-American troubling: Africa is a whole continent, with many countries and people within it. “I really wanted to know who I was,” she says.
Then suddenly, thanks to DNA testing, descendants of the enslaved in America were able to learn about their lineage. Deadria traced herself to the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone. “Now that I know I’m Mende, I know a direction to look in to learn language, to learn culture, to travel, to get to know who I am,” she says.
“We were never intended to be returned”
With this discovery about her forebears came the difficult knowledge that, along with thousands of other Mende people, her ancestors were enslaved and trafficked to America. As skilled labourers, many were targeted by the British in the 1700s to work – without compensation – on their rice plantations in South Carolina.
“We were never intended to be returned or to be able to connect with whomever it is that we are, wherever we’re coming from,” says Deadria. “It was deliberate destruction of our nationality.”
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