Our Story

The amazing tale of how it went from a slave plantation to Africa House as noted in the article below written by Daphne Taylor with THE FLORIDA COURIER.


We can all say that we’ve seen some amazing ironies in life, but few have experienced one like Dr. Arikana Chihombori, a Zimbabwe (Africa)-born physician and frequent Florida visitor and landowner who lives in the heart of Tennessee.

Africa House, a mansion in Tennessee, once served as a plantation to slaves. Ironically the mansion is now owned by Africans.(Photos by CHARLES W. CHERRY II / FLORIDA COURIER)

Africa House, a mansion in Tennessee, once served as a plantation to slaves. Ironically the mansion is now owned by Africans.
(Photos by CHARLES W. CHERRY II / FLORIDA COURIER)

She and her husband, Dr. Nii Saban Quao, are both highly touted physicians. After completing her undergraduate education at Fisk University, she matriculated at Meharry Medical College and earned degrees in general chemistry, a master’s degree in organic chemistry and a Doctor of Medicine degree.

Dr. Quao, a native of Ghana, is a graduate of Yale University, where he earned three degrees: an undergraduate degree in molecular biology and biophysics, then a master’s degree in public health and a Doctor of Medicine degree. He also has a law degree from Vanderbilt University.
They are now the owners of Africa House, an expansive, plantation-style mansion where dignitaries, beauty queens, ambassadors and other luminaries have stayed as their special guests. It is also the couple’s occasional weekend home.

But it’s how Chihombori acquired the sprawling home – and what is taking place there now – that presents one of the greatest ironies ever known.

Africa House might not have been if it hadn’t been for a casual business associate, a young man who insisted that the locally well-known doctor check out a foreclosure auction for a house that he said would go for cheap.

Dr. Arikana Chihombori (center) is flanked by Dr. Glenn Cherry, left, and her husband, Dr. Nii Saban Quao.

Dr. Arikana Chihombori (center) is flanked by
Dr. Glenn Cherry, left, and her husband, Dr. Nii Saban Quao.

Chihombori was not in the market for another house. She already owns properties in Tennessee, Florida, Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and is a shareholder in a major resort property in the Orlando area.

But the young man, who actually came to one of her four medical clinics to get some papers signed, insisted that she go to the auction and bid on the large house. She still didn’t take it too seriously.
“I had no intentions of going there to buy. I was just going to look at a big house,” she explained.

She left home late that morning and figured the auction might even be over when she got there. But to her surprise, it wasn’t. Not only was it not over, she later learned that the auctioneer held up the auction because they were told, “the African Queen was coming.”

She was astonished. As fate would have it, she outbid everyone at the foreclosure auction, wrote a check to buy the place and by that afternoon, to her own initial dismay, she was owner of a sprawling plantation.

In 2012, an event sponsored by the African Union Diaspora Africa Forum drew participants from African countries as well as from around America to Africa House.

In 2012, an event sponsored by the African Union Diaspora Africa Forum drew participants from African countries as well as from around America to Africa House.

She estimates she got the house, an adjacent barn, and 30 acres of land for a third of what it was worth. She had to tell her husband what she’d done.

Quao, her spouse – who is himself a longtime collector of African antiquities – just shook his head when he got the news. He’s used to her buying real estate “on a whim.”

Nowhere to go
But it was what was to come that blew her and everybody away. The couple that had owned the home was once extremely prosperous. They had just lost their beloved mansion and were forced to sell what remained of their family’s legacy, and they were not prepared either psychologically or physically to leave when their property was sold to a wealthy African woman.

They had nowhere to go. Chihombori could force them to move out of the house immediately, or she could give them a grace period and allow them to stay a while longer. She didn’t force them out. But it was then that she learned the rather startling news.

Not just any house
she had purchased Chapman Clearing, parts of which had been in the same family since the year 1799.
“Mr. Chapman felt it was an insult losing his home, then losing it to a Black woman, but in the end, he was glad he did because we let him stay there. He said that if anybody else had bought it, they would have wanted him out by 5 p.m. that very day. He said that ironically, it took two Africans to help him out! We changed his entire mindset about Black people,” said Chihombori.

She and her husband eventually allowed them to stay in the home for three months free of charge, and it didn’t matter to her that he had initially been upset that a Black family bought his mansion.

She said he even grew fond of her entire family and looked forward to their visits there during his extended stay. It didn’t matter that the history of the property included a time during which it was a slave plantation. “The man completely changed the way he sees Black people, and that’s what it’s all about. “Their preconceived notions of Black people are wrong,” she remarked.

But she’s quick to point out that allowing him to stay there for free was just part of her upbringing in Africa.

‘The African way’
“To us, it didn’t matter that he was White. We did that based on our African upbringing. That’s an African way. I’m not sure that’s an American way. Everything we do, we draw back from our African values,” she said of herself and her husband.

Today, Africa House – a former slave plantation – has been turned into an oasis of African culture in Tennessee, and the hub of thought, strategic thinking, and activity where great work is and will take place. As a medical doctor, Chihombori is chairwoman of the African Union African Diaspora Health Initiative (AU-ADHI). (The African Union is a confederation of 54 African states.)

In this capacity, she is charged with mobilizing health-care workers throughout the African Diaspora – that is, people of African descent living outside of Africa – to assist in addressing the health-care crisis in Africa. At Africa House, Chihombori and her husband brainstorm, strategize and collect information that is then used to make African countries healthier.

The main building of the former slave plantation was now a meeting place for people initiating sweeping positive changes in the very place where enslaved Africans slaves were forced from – their own homeland.