Synopses & Reviews
In nineteenth-century America, the belief that blacks and whites could not live in social harmony and political equality in the same country led to a movement to relocate African Americans to Liberia, a West African colony established by the United States government and the American Colonization Society in 1822. In The Price of Liberty
, Claude Clegg accounts for 2,030 North Carolina blacks who left the state and took up residence in Liberia between 1825 and 1893. By examining both the American and African sides of this experience, Clegg produces a textured account of an important chapter in the historical evolution of the Atlantic world.
For almost a century, Liberian emigration connected African Americans to the broader cultures, commerce, communication networks, and epidemiological patterns of the Afro-Atlantic region. But for many individuals, dreams of a Pan-African utopia in Liberia were tempered by complicated relationships with the Africans, whom they dispossessed of land. Liberia soon became a politically unstable mix of newcomers, indigenous peoples, and "recaptured" Africans from westbound slave ships. Ultimately, Clegg argues, in the process of forging the world's second black-ruled republic, the emigrants constructed a settler society marred by many of the same exclusionary, oppressive characteristics common to modern colonial regimes.
The Price of Liberty is outstanding scholarship that richly captures the meaning, the hopes, and the tragedy of the colonization movement both in the United States and Liberia. (David S. Cecelski, author of The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina)
In the first book to examine closely both the American background and the post-migration lives of a substantial number of Liberian emigrants, Clegg focuses on the experiences of over 2,000 black North Carolinians who traded the racial crisis in North Carolina for a new set of challenges facing them in Liberia.
"An engaging and thoroughly researched account of how just over 2,000 North Carolinian blacks left for Africa between 1820 and 1893 and of the role they played in the establishment of the nascent state of Liberia. . . . Brilliant."
"A welcome addition to the literature on the colonization movement . . . the most comprehensive and scholarly study that has yet been undertaken on the subject. . . . Essential reading for everyone interested in the colonization movement of Liberian history."
-- American Historical Review
This is a brilliant and fascinating account that has filled in many gaps. . . . The narrative has a deep human quality, depicting the real predicament that the option of colonization posed for black people. This book will definitely illuminate the Liberia story and enliven an important period of American history. . . . There is a lot that Liberians can learn from this work that should provide a context for reconciliation and reconstruction. (Amos Sawyer, Interim President of Liberia (1990-1994) and author of The Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia)
About the Author
Claude A. Clegg III is associate professor of history at Indiana University at Bloomington. He is author of An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad.