Synopses & Reviews
The first popular history of the former American slaves who founded, ruled, and lost Africas first republic
In 1820, a small group of African Americans reversed the course of centuries and sailed to Africa, to a place they would name after liberty itself. They went under the aegis of the American Colonization Society, a white philanthropic organization with a dual agenda: to rid America of its blacks and to evangelize Africa. The settlers, eventually numbering in the thousands, broke free from the ACS and, in 1847, established the Republic of Liberia.
James Ciment, in his enthralling history Another America, shows that the settlers struggled to balance their high ideals with their prejudices. On the steamy shores of West Africa, they re-created the only social order they knew, that of an antebellum Dixie, with themselves as the master caste, ruling over a native population that outnumbered them twenty to one. They built plantations, held elegant dances, and worked to protect their fragile independence from the predations of foreign powers. Meanwhile, they fought, abused, and even helped to enslave the native Liberians. The persecuted became the persecutors—until a lowly native sergeant murdered their president in 1980, ending 133 years of Americo-Liberian rule and inaugurating a quarter century of civil war.
Riven by caste, committed to commerce, practicing democratic and Christian ideals haphazardly, the Americo-Liberians created a history that is, to a surprising degree, the mirror image of our own.
"Few in the U.S. could identify Liberia on a map, but the two nations' histories are inextricably intertwined. Founded in 1822 as a colony for African-Americans returning to Africa, Liberia was created in the image of the U.S., and the former slaves and free blacks who moved there, driven by idealism or by poverty, 'endeavored to recreate the only social and political order they knew, that of the antebellum South with themselves as the master class.' Ciment (Atlas of African-American History) paints a vivid picture of the challenges faced by the settlers: although supported by the U.S., formal recognition of their independence was delayed by nearly two decades due to American diplomatic society's refusal to host a black ambassador. Riven by troubled relations with the native population and familiar racial baggage natives railed against 'a small, light-skinned elite work against the will of the black masses' the settlers nevertheless resisted foreign invasion and maintained control of the country for over 130 years, before a bloody coup ushered in decades of violence. Enlivened by profiles of some of the early settlers, this is an engaging and accessible account whose only shortcoming is its failure to discuss the implications of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's election to the presidency in 2011." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Ciment captures the establishment and destiny of [Liberia], from [its] expectant beginnings, to the Orwellian zeal with which the formerly oppressed in many cases became the oppressors, to the more recent atrocities committed by Charles Taylor. That few Americans today seem aware of Liberias story, and their own countrys essential role in it, gives this book a place in the lexicon that exceeds the mere quality of its research or readability of its text, both of which are considerable.”
—The Daily Beast
“Vivid . . . Enlivened by profiles of some of the early settlers, this is an engaging and accessible account.”
“Americas ugly affair with slavery produced an illegitimate child, the nation of Liberia. James Ciments book is a stunning portrait of both Americas, the superpower and the outcast ‘child—a nation we fostered, abused, and used, and that now thrives despite it all. Ciment brings a journalists ‘you are there voice and a novelists insight to this history of America reborn in Africa under black rule and misrule. Affecting, at times violent, and filled with unforgettable characters, Another America reads like nonfiction Dostoyevsky.”
—Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Vultures Picnic
“James Ciment has written well about the fantastic, twisted story of the Republic of Liberia, which saw freed slaves from America return to Africa to rule over the natives for more than a century, until they were ousted in a long and brutal civil war. Another America is an engaging, accessible, appropriately critical yet respectful history that reads like a novel you wont be able to put down.”
—Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora
“James Ciments Another America is a rip-roaring popular retelling of Liberian history. It is a whirl of names and places that evokes the conundrum presented by African Americans in Africa claiming to be the spokespersons for blackness. Its lesson—that class hierarchies can derail appeals to racial unity—is a vital one.”
—Ibrahim Sundiata, author of Brothers and Strangers: Black Zion, Black Slavery, 1914-1940
“With a fistful of good characters and a backbone of research, James Ciments very readable book makes the story of Liberia, the ex-slaves country, look like a limb of American history.”
—Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family
About the Author
James Ciment is an independent scholar and the author of reference books on African American history, the New Deal, colonial America, and jazz. He lives in Los Angeles.
Table of Contents
1. The Black Mayflower 3
2. Original Sin 27 3. First Families and Fresh Graves 53 4. Africas Lone Star 77 5. A Matter of Color 99 6. The African Banquet 121 7. Conquering Hero 145 8. The Slave Ring 169 9. The Original African Big Man 189 10. Father and Son 223 Epilogue 247 Notes 259