African-American repatriates tribal treasures through eBay diplomacy


When family researcher William Holland flies back to his ancestral homeland in Cameroon next week, he’ll be bearing gifts: ceremonial masks that were taken out of Africa decades ago, purchased by Holland in online auctions, and now destined to be returned to the tribes from whence they came.

It’s an unusual exercise in citizen diplomacy, but one that’s fitting for Martin Luther King Jr. Day — an occasion that celebrates the late civil-rights leader’s legacy and encourages volunteer service.

You’re always supposed to give back,” Holland said. “Even if you have nothing, at least try to give something to somebody so they can move ahead, even if it’s something as simple as a book. Now I’m able to do what’s right and return these items that were stolen.

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