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African American opposition to colonizationist projects represents a more significant part of abolitionist discourse in the early nineteenth century than previously credited. African Americans resisted white nationalism they identified in back-to-Africa colonization schemes by advocating for a Black settler state within the United States or elsewhere in the Americas. In this period, African Americans debated the American Colonization Society’s platform as a point of departure for imagining how political separatism might redress their curtailed rights of citizenship in the United States. Relying on newspaper reports, letters to the editor, pamphlets, and convention proceedings, this essay examines how Black anticolonization sentiment increasingly proposed separatism and emigration as critical strategies to resist white nationalist promotion of Blacks’ emancipation-by-deportation.
This chapter traces Dr Thomas Hodgkin’s engagement with British anti-slavery, the American Colonization Society, Liberia and the African American Emigration movement. Hodgkin was the leading advocate in Britain for the colony of Liberia, and became its British consul after independence in 1848. Hodgkin conceived of solutions to slavery within an unusually transnational framework. However, his championing of gradual emancipation for British slaves and plans to civilize West Africa by repatriating emancipated slaves from the New World, led him into unsavoury alliances and conflict with leading British and US abolitionists. Hodgkin’s correspondence with humanitarian opponents, doyens of British abolition, leading Liberians, African American Emigrationists, and the American Colonization Society, reveals deep divisions within anti-slavery which had ramifications for the campaigns for indigenous protection and civilization.
This chapter is about the religious sensibilities preached from pulpits and printed in black periodicals that shaped the philosophical and political aims of early African American writing. It examines the preaching and writing lives of eminent black clergy active between 1800 and 1830 and highlights their organizational networks within the Free African Society, the American Colonization Society, Prince Hall Freemasonry and a number of mutual aid societies. This chapter sets out to understand how, out of an inchoate black liberation theology, a black Protestant inheritance came to incorporate early African American literature, speech and non-fiction prose. The transitions under exploration include the coalescence of a liberating theology in early nineteenth century black religion.
This chapter argues the writings published by Blacks in the early national US must be understood in relation to the history of slavery in the British Empire. The author examines diverse forms of African American literature, which were focused on transatlantic concerns, such as “Orations on the Abolition of the Slave Trade” (1808–1823), given annually on January 1. These texts tell powerful stories of the history of the slave trade, and particularly its violence to familial ties, from the trade’s inception in the fifteenth century until its abolition in 1808. Written by free Black churchmen and intellectuals in New York and Philadelphia, including Absalom Jones, Peter Williams, Jr., Russell Parrot, and William Hamilton, these orations demonstrate a deep interest in the actions of the British Parliament and the state of slavery in the West Indies. This chapter also considers direct allusions to British and Afro-British abolitionists and their writings, from Clarkson and Wilberforce to Equiano, in the work of William Miller, Russell Parrot, William Whipper, David Walker, Maria Stewart, and others. The chapter concludes with a discussion of The History of Mary Prince (1831), the most important slave narrative to emerge from the British colonies and questions the inclusion of Prince’s narrative in a history of African American literature.
This first chapter traces how the emergence of free soil in Sierra Leone, Haiti, and Liberia captured the attention of American reformers in the early nineteenth century amidst growing concern about free African Americans’ social welfare and economic prospects in the United States. Reformers, activists, and potential migrants debated whether the migration of free and recently freed black men and women would improve or degrade the conditions of individual migrants, whether it would help or hinder the black communities left behind, and whether it would positively or negatively affect the overall progress of general emancipation. Reviewing the information available to them, they debated whether to encourage the voluntary “emigration” of free people to Haiti, to support the typically involuntary “colonization” of former slaves to West Africa, or to oppose free-soil relocation schemes altogether. In the process, advocates of each position honed their ideas of what freedom meant, where it could be achieved, and who could enjoy it.
In 1850, most white Americans interpreted black resettlement as meaning one institution and one location: the American Colonization Society (ACS) and the African settlement that it had founded three decades earlier, Liberia. As politicians from North and South sparred over dividing the acquisitions of the Mexican-American War (1846–8) into territories where slavery would be prohibited and those where it would not, they turned to the compromise of Liberian colonization, which promised to remove the source of their antagonism by simply removing black people. State legislators, endowed with greater power than their federal counterparts to proscribe African Americans, also redoubled their support for the ACS and the “black laws” that excluded, even expelled their black compatriots. Yet as lawmakers found it easier to persecute African Americans than to offer them positive alternatives, and as the citizens of a now-independent Liberia protested Americans’ presumption in foisting manumitted slaves and “recaptives” from the Atlantic slave trade on a small, struggling settlement, commentators contended that black Americans might need to colonize other parts of the world instead.
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