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An African Republic

An African Republic: Black and White Virginians in the Making of Liberia

Marie Tyler-McGraw
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    An African Republic
    Book Description:

    The nineteenth-century American Colonization Society (ACS) project of persuading all American free blacks to emigrate to the ACS colony of Liberia could never be accomplished. Few free blacks volunteered, and greater numbers would have overwhelmed the meager resources of the ACS. Given that reality, who supported African colonization and why? No state was more involved with the project than Virginia, where white Virginians provided much of the political and organizational leadership and black Virginians provided a majority of the emigrants.InAn African Republic, Marie Tyler-McGraw traces the parallel but seldom intersecting tracks of black and white Virginians' interests in African colonization, from revolutionary-era efforts at emancipation legislation to African American churches' concern for African missions. In Virginia, African colonization attracted aging revolutionaries, republican mothers and their daughters, bondpersons schooled and emancipated for Liberia, evangelical planters and merchants, urban free blacks, opportunistic politicians, Quakers, and gentlemen novelists.An African Republicfollows the experiences of the emigrants from Virginia to Liberia, where some became the leadership class, consciously seeking to demonstrate black abilities, while others found greater hardship and early death. Tyler-McGraw carefully examines the tensions between racial identities, domestic visions, and republican citizenship in Virginia and Liberia.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0471-8
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The american colonization society (AGS) has frequently been seen as a sideshow in nineteenth-century American history and one in which some of the nation’s more bizarre and racist concepts were on display. But the AGS, though seldom in the spotlight, occupied part of the center ring of the American experience in that century. With racial identities and a national narrative undergoing construction and revision, the AGS fixed on the problem that embedded white prejudice would severely restrict black achievement for generations. Its solution—an African republic—was problematic in itself. It promised to diminish the free black presence in America...

  5. One A Small Frisson of Fear, Soon Soothed
    (pp. 9-22)

    The younger men usually stayed out until well past dark on summer Sundays, but some came back from the fish feast early, complaining that the women had “eat up all the fish.” Just about the only thing worth telling about was those big talkers from the Prosser place and their claims about how many guns and swords they got and what they intended doing with them. Brothers Gabriel and Solomon, traveling freely from one gathering of blacks to another, boasted about the swords they had fashioned out of scythes at the blacksmith’s forge. Each scythe, broken in the middle, heated...

  6. Two The Alchemy of Colonization
    (pp. 23-38)

    Near the end of the eighteenth century there appeared in Virginia a Doctor Perkins who was traveling through the counties and cities of the United States on a self-described mission of mercy. He carried with him “Perkins’ Metallic Tractors,” two-forked metal instruments about four inches long, flat on one side and rounded on the other, which he claimed to apply scientifically to certain points on the skin. Manipulating them in mysterious patterns, he professed to cure rheumatism, gout, toothache, and headache through the power of the mixture of zinc and silver in the instruments. He illustrated the galvanic effect of...

  7. Three Auxiliary Arms
    (pp. 39-62)

    In the fall of 1819, the venerable Ludwell Lee and his son, Richard Henry Lee, with a Presbyterian minister, John Mines, put out a call for a meeting in Loudoun County to discuss African colonization. Some seventy local men attended the meeting held in the county seat of Leesburg and organized the Loudoun County Auxiliary to the American Colonization Society (AGS). Ludwell Lee was made president, and the society chose thirteen vice presidents and eight general managers from the county’s Quaker farmers, slaveholding planters, and townsmen.¹ The number of such Virginia auxiliary societies would rise and fall in the antebellum...

  8. Four Ho, All Ye That Are by the Pale-Faces’ Laws Oppressed: Out of Virginia
    (pp. 63-82)

    In the early winter of 1821, a small group of Richmond free blacks gathered in the parlor of William Crane, a white shoe merchant and Baptist, to organize themselves as the Providence Baptist Church. The families of Lott Cary, Colin Teage, and the elderly Joseph Langford were about to embark for Liberia on theNautilus, the second ship to the very new settlement founded by the American Colonization Society (AGS) on the western coast of Africa. As founding members of the Richmond African Baptist Missionary Society, Cary, Teage, and Crane were aware of earlier missionary enterprises and colonizing plans for...

  9. Five My Old Mistress Promise Me
    (pp. 83-104)

    In the winter of 1817, a young woman living near Annapolis wrote a chatty letter, full of gossip from the national capital, to her brother in Liverpool. “There is a glorious scheme in contemplation and indeed going into execution to make a colony of the free blacks in Africa. It originated with Fenton Mercer. . . . It is intended to induce so many as can be persuaded to go voluntarily and join the establishment of Sierra Leone from where it is hoped good accounts will soon attract followers. It will also be a great inducement to slave holders to...

  10. Six Revising the Future in Virginia
    (pp. 105-126)

    In 1827, jesse burton harrison declaimed, “Nothing is more frequent than to hear . . . lamentations over the departing greatness of our commonwealth. . . . But the most pointed complaint is of the disappearance of the old Virginia character. The mistake appears to me to consist inregrettingit. Do you want the old Virginia character back? It can be done; it is the easiest of political problems. You must repeal the statute of distributions and introduce hereditary wealth; then check the spirit of commerce by abolishing the banks, bringing back all wealth to consist in land and...

  11. Seven Virginians in Liberia
    (pp. 127-150)

    In the palm grove cemetery in Monrovia, Liberia, there were and perhaps still are gravestones erected by the children and grandchildren of early settlers. One marker is inscribed: “In Memory of Charles Cooper, born in Smithfield, Virginia, U.S.A. in March, 1799. Died in Monrovia on March 24, 1881. He was a kind father, a true friend and a veteran soldier of the cross. I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.” Near Cooper’s grave are those of family members who accompanied him from Portsmouth, Virginia, on theElvira Owenin May 1856...

  12. Eight Liberians in Africa and America
    (pp. 151-170)

    A visitor to monrovia in 1860 professed surprise at the “degree of refinement and taste” that he found among its residents and concluded that “an aristocracy of means and education is already set up.” “the virginians,” he added, “are said to be the leaders of the aristocracy.” But the traveler did not really approve of the display of quality clothing: “The people generally dress above their means, extravagantly so, and the quantity of kid gloves and umbrellas displayed on all occasions does not promise well for a nation whose hope rests on hard and well developed muscles.”¹ This observation by...

  13. Nine Civil War to White City
    (pp. 171-182)

    In paris, in the late 1850s, two men who knew a great deal about Liberia may have passed each other in the environs of the Luxembourg Gardens, near their residences. Theophile Conneau, restored to his birth name and protected by his brother, who was court physician to Napoleon III, had recently retired from a modest and brief position as collector of the port of Noumea in New Caledonia. With him was his young American wife, the former Elisa McKinley of Philadelphia. A small, smartly dressed man, he charmed the friends of his older brother, Dr. Henri Conneau, with his discreetly...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 183-226)
  15. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 227-232)
  16. Index
    (pp. 233-249)