Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
International

Bantu Refugees Adjust to New Lives in America

After arriving in South Carolina a year ago, Rukiya Sheygo has been doing custodial work at Columbia College. Above, she's pictured with her newborn son, Abukar.
After arriving in South Carolina a year ago, Rukiya Sheygo has been doing custodial work at Columbia College. Above, she's pictured with her newborn son, Abukar.
Bantu Refugees Adjust to New Lives in America

The Bantus of Somalia are a long way from home. Originally from Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi, they were captured two centuries ago and sold as slaves in Somalia. When that country collapsed into civil war in 1991, thousands of Bantu fled across the border to refugee camps in Kenya. Last year, they began their longest journey yet -- across the ocean to America.

The decision to bring the Bantu to the U.S. was controversial. The State Department agreed to the relocation only after efforts to settle them within Africa failed. Even refugee advocates worried privately if it was right to throw the rural farmers -- who had virtually no knowledge of Western culture -- directly into American society.

More than 11,000 Somali Bantus have arrived so far and the effort to integrate them is demanding generosity, dedication and creativity from whole communities. NPR's Jennifer Ludden visited Columbia, S.C., where 22 Bantu families are trying to build a new life.

This story was produced by NPR's Petra Mayer.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.