Against Wind and TideThe African American Struggle against the Colonization Movement

Against Wind and TideThe African American Struggle against the Colonization Movement

Ousmane K. Power-Greene

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9781479823178

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

This book tells the story of African Americans' 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 the book shows, these African American anticolonizationists did not believe Liberia would ever be a true “black American homeland.” The book 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 ACS'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. The book 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.