The article draws on the life story of Musa, a Soninke man from a Gambian village, to shed light on the experience and subjective dimension of slave descent in West Africa. After spending most of his life abroad as a migrant, Musa retired to his home village and came to terms with his status identity as a slave descendant. Rather than by status hierarchies alone, however, Musa's social position was modulated by other aspirations and obligations, particularly those inherent in becoming an elder and a returnee. These predicaments of the self, constructed on the basis of age, masculinity and cosmopolitan knowledge, shaped his life and delineated the space in which he variously interpreted and navigated the legacy of slavery. By foregrounding the ways in which slave descent is dynamically refracted by this broader process of self-making, this article thus goes beyond a framework centred primarily on fixed status identities and on the dynamics of resistance/submission, highlighting instead the multifaceted, even contradictory, positioning of slave descendants in post-slavery Senegambia.