Saturday, 6 February 2021

the love of freedom brought us here

With the organisation and the planned settlement of the commonwealth of Liberia established four years prior, the Society for the Colonization of Free People of Colour of America constituted to encourage the migration, repatriation of African Americans to the continent sponsored its first voyage of eighty-eight individuals on this day in 1820, departing from New York harbour to the colony of Mississippi-in-Africa on the Pepper Coast, southwest of the Sierra Leone Province of Freedom (previously) established in 1786 by the London-based Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor.

Though some abolitionist and Quakers who supported the society thought that the emancipated and formerly enslaved individuals might fare better outside of the systemic prejudice of the United States, the society’s motives were pure racism, uncomfortable with the growth of non-white population since the conclusion of the Revolutionary War and mounting pressure from slave-holders to do something about the free population lest they stoke rebellion—hopeful that the concession could avoid a civil war, whose tensions were already primed.
Apparently under considerable duress (at gun point), Zolu Duma, the Gola ruler who also ostensibly was positioned to profit from Triangular Trade, was persuaded to sell the land that would become the capital Monrovia (named after the fifth US president and plantation-owner) and surrounding territory. Of the four thousand that immigrated there, unwelcome by the indigenous population that they were displacing and the harsh environment, less than half survived in the coming decades and were forced to grow cash-crops for export to repay their passage. Finding the situation untenable and suffering privations on par with what they had experienced on the other side of the Atlantic, Liberia revolted and declared its independence from the US in 1847, the first colonial-holding in Africa to do so. Its status as a republic was not recognised by reunited America until after the Civil War in 1862.