Early Liberia’s Epistolary Equivocations
This chapter reveals the fault lines of black diaspora theory by examining how black settlers from the United States were suspended in a social subjectivity that resisted being consolidated as specifically American or Liberian. Drawing on Phyllis Wheatley and Ouladah Equiano alongside the nineteenth-century archive of letters authored by Liberia's earliest black American settlers, the chapter identifies resonances of two conventional positions on settlement. First is the allure of diaspora's racial romanticism, and the other is the imperialistic impulses of an American nationalism. The chapter's consideration of the letters' language, however, settles for neither of the two. Instead, it exposes the conditionality and “equivocal agency” of Liberian settler-subjects as they speculated on the meanings and improvised on the practices of freedom.
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