Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Against Wind and Tide

Against Wind and Tide: The African American Struggle Against the Colonization Movement

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Against Wind and Tide
    Book Description:

    Against Wind and Tidetells 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 Ousmane K. Power-Greenes 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 Societys 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-7669-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-X)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. XI-XII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XIII-XVI)
  4. Preface
    (pp. XVII-XXIV)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    When in early 1817 free blacks in Georgetown, Virginia learned of the creation of the American Colonization Society, an organization established to settle them in West Africa for their own “elevation,” they gathered at the house of Nicholas Warner to “shew [sic] unto the world at large [their] dislike to colonize in Africa.”² During the meeting, those present discussed the threat of this new organization, declaring the necessity for “free and independent men of color” to form “a firm and strong social compact” and to agitate against the ACS.

    After the meeting, Christopher McPherson, the secretary, sent circulars to black...

  6. 1 “The Means of Alleviating the Suffering”: Haitian Emigration and the Colonization Movement, 1817–1830
    (pp. 17-45)

    On December 11, 1818, Prince Saunders, the influential black educator and secretary of the African Masonic Lodge in Boston, stood before white antislavery leaders at the annual meeting of the American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery to rebuke the means and ends of the American Colonization Society. In his speech, he explained how the Colonization Society had encouraged congressional and state officials to fund an effort to drive free African Americans out of the United States and “back” to Africa. This colonization project, Saunders argued, was creating a “frenzy” among free blacks fearful of a mass deportation across...

  7. 2 “One of the Wildest Projects Ever”: Abolitionists and the Anticolonizationist Impulse, 1830–1840
    (pp. 46-62)

    In February of 1833, Maria Stewart stood before a group of people gathered at the African Masonic Hall in Boston to condemn the ACS for its goal of “influencing us to go to Liberia.” Rather than donate money to fund black colonization in Liberia, these “real friends” of African Americans, Stewart urged, should use those funds “which they collect, in erecting a college to educate her injured ones in this land.” Stewart explained that the colonization movement was siphoning off funds to educate and care for free blacks in the North, while doing little to change the circumstances in this...

  8. 3 “The Cause Is God’s and Must Prevail”: Building an Anticolonizationist Wall in Great Britain, 1830–1850
    (pp. 63-94)

    Studies of the abolition movement have often highlighted the importance of the transnational nature of the antislavery and anticolonization struggles.¹ When abolitionists traveled overseas to argue for their antislavery cause, they quickly recognized that the battle for public support in Britain rested on their ability to undermine the American Colonization Society agents struggling to procure financial and legislative support in Europe. ACS agents courted British antislavery leaders, presenting colonization as if it were popular among blacks in America. Consequently, William Lloyd Garrison, Nathaniel Paul, and fellow American abolitionists traveled to the British Isles throughout the 1830s and 1840s to challenge...

  9. 4 Resurrecting the “Iniquitous Scheme”: The Rebirth of the Colonization Movement in America, 1840–1854
    (pp. 95-128)

    In May 1847, the Reverend Heman Humphrey, a former president of Amherst College, traveled to a meeting of the Massachusetts Colonization Society in Boston to reignite the colonization cause in the Bay State. After members listened to a report discussing a “most interesting and encouraging picture of Liberia,” Humphrey took the floor, explaining that, since the founding of Liberia, “the slave trade had been abolished over 400 miles of coast; and all the neighboring tribes had been greatly benefited.”¹ His closing comment that “no benevolent Society had done so much in the same time: and with the same means, as...

  10. 5 “An Undue Illusion”: Emigration, Colonization, and the Destiny of the Colored Races, 1850–1858
    (pp. 129-157)

    When a delegate at the National Black Convention of 1855 read a “communication” from white colonizationist Jacob Handy in regards to the benefits of African colonization, what transpired was nothing short of a spectacle. As William J. Wilson recalled in a letter to his cousin, “You are, I know, accustomed to the torrent, the tornado, and the storm, as they sweep through your native forests, but the storm raised by this announcement, and the presence of this document in the house, you can form no conception of.”¹ According to Wilson, “members took fire in every direction,” and soon, “the house...

  11. 6 “For God and Humanity”: Anticolonization in the Civil War Era
    (pp. 158-192)

    “Your scheme of emigration,” James McCune Smith wrote to Henry Highland Garnet in early 1861, “have [sic] neither the charm of novelty nor the prestige of success.” Even though Garnet’s newly established African Civilization Society tried to repackage emigration to West Africa as a feature of a broader race redemption mission, Smith called the Civilization Society “a feeble attempt to do what the American Colonization Society has failed to do; witness Liberia.” As Smith explained, the emigration debates over the course of the decade had done little to change his own opinion about the pernicious link between colonization and emigration.¹...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 193-200)

    When Frederick Douglass, Henry Highland Garnet, and John Mercer Langston joined with other black leaders from all over the country at the National Convention of Colored Men of America in Washington, D.C., in January 1869, the issue of black equality and justice remained as pertinent as ever. Such issues were central to the struggle for democracy and citizenship that a generation of abolitionists, activists, and community leaders had fought for, and continued to strive for, in the aftermath of the Civil War. John Mercer Langston called on his peers to keep struggling against “the odious featurers [sic] of the Northern...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 201-238)
  14. Index
    (pp. 239-246)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 247-248)