Against Wind and Tide: The African American Struggle against the Colonization Movement (Early American Places)

Against Wind and Tide: The African American Struggle against the Colonization Movement (Early American Places)

Ousmane K. Power-Greene

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 1479823171

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Against Wind and Tide tells the story of African American’s battle against the American Colonization Society (ACS), founded in 1816 with the intention to return free blacks to its colony Liberia. Although ACS members considered free black colonization in Africa a benevolent enterprise, most black leaders rejected the ACS, fearing that the organization sought forced removal. As Ousmane K. Power-Greene’s story shows, these African American anticolonizationists did not believe Liberia would ever be a true “black American homeland.”
 
In this study of anticolonization agitation, Power-Greene draws on newspapers, meeting minutes, and letters to explore the concerted effort on the part of nineteenth century black activists, community leaders, and spokespersons to challenge the American Colonization Society’s attempt to make colonization of free blacks federal policy. The ACS insisted the plan embodied empowerment. The United States, they argued, would never accept free blacks as citizens, and the only solution to the status of free blacks was to create an autonomous nation that would fundamentally reject racism at its core. But the activists and reformers on the opposite side believed that the colonization movement was itself deeply racist and in fact one of the greatest obstacles for African Americans to gain citizenship in the United States.
 
Power-Greene synthesizes debates about colonization and emigration, situating this complex and enduring issue into an ever broader conversation about nation building and identity formation in the Atlantic world. 

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Jay and an active member of the New York Manumission Society, and eight others met to discuss the free and enslaved black population of the state, and the July 4, 1827, termination of slavery in New York.65 They wondered whether African Americans in the state would “cheerfully embrace any opportunity that may present to place the descendants of Africa in a situation which will furnish them with more powerful motives, than are offered among ourselves, to respectability of character, and

humane “the means of alleviating the suffering” / 43 slave holders to emancipate their slaves.” Regardless of how many ACS members held firm in their opposition to interfering “with the legal rights and obligations of slavery,” Russwurm observed that “as we well know, there are four or five hundred slaves now waiting [for want of funds] to be landed on the shores of Liberia, to become freemen.”112 When one considers the plight of African Americans in bondage, it should not be too surprising

Society has been made, either by its own fault, or the fault of others, or partly both, to appear to be friendly to slavery” and “an obstacle of emancipation.” The abolitionists, as Smith argued, had successfully cast the colonization movement in negative terms, and this stood as the most formidable obstacle to recruiting black emigrants to Liberia. In this sense, Smith admitted that “the Anti-Slavery Society has greatly wronged us,” although he still believed the Colonization Society could

little giving to it.” He presented a resolution to raise $50,000, claiming “Let us, Sir, not only pass the resolution which I hold in my hand . . . but let us before the present week is closed, or better still, before we leave the room,” gather that sum. Such bold proclamations must have unsettled ACS members and hastened Smith’s retreat from the organization after 1835, when he cast his lot with the American AntiSlavery Society.40 Recruited to the antislavery cause by Alvin Stewart and Beriah

of disagreement came when he challenged Gurley and those who supported gradual emancipation and colonization to look at the West Indies for an example of the potential for civil rule and order after emancipation. Buxton sought to illustrate that the ACS’s call for colonization after emancipation remained entirely unrealistic because the United States was no closer to ending slavery than when the ACS first started its operation. Buxton argued: You have repeatedly acknowledged that you are adverse

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