Against wind and tide: African Americans' response to the colonization movement and emigration, 1770–1865
This dissertation examines the American Colonization Society’s “scheme” which sought to deport black Americans to Liberia during the period of slavery. It also explains why a significant number of free African Americans in the North struggled to undermine the colonization movement. The questions that drive this study are: How did African American leaders utilize antislavery networks in the Atlantic world to challenge racial oppression and the colonization movement? How did black political discourse imbibe and reconfigure western concepts like nationalism? In what ways did African Americans foster transnational relationships with European reformers to undermine the colonization movement, the Atlantic slave trade, and the moral and religious implications of human bondage? While historians continue to study African Americans who left America, and settled in Liberia, few studies have been dedicated to examining the overwhelming opposition to black expatriation. My dissertation will attempt to fill this void, and to explore the origins of the colonization movement, and the various ways free African Americans in the North protested against it.
This study also places anti-colonization ideology, rhetoric, and activism within the broader Abolition Movement by clarifying how black opposition to colonization set the groundwork for the “Immediatism” phase of antislavery agitation. Through protesting the colonization movement, black leaders sought to demonstrate that African Americans, and their kin in the diaspora, were afforded the same intellectual acumen, moral worth, and human faculties as their European American peers. Furthermore, they employed diverse strategies to challenge racial inequality, affirm their American identity, and critique American democracy. Black American critics of racial prejudice, slavery, and all manifestations of white supremacy, expressed a sense of African pride, while rooting their struggle against the Colonization Society within the belief that America would one day accept them as equal citizens.
While the history of the American Colonization Society, and black resistance to their African colonization initiative, fits squarely within antebellum United States history, the topic crosses temporal and spatial boundaries, thus provoking researchers to consider the implications of Africa American agency and formation of a Pan-African worldview during the nineteenth century. Through black resistance to colonization, one can glean an important analytical framework for examining black nationalism and African diasporic identity.
0337: American history