Synopses & Reviews
In the 1860s, as America waged civil war, several thousand African Americans sought greater freedom by emigrating to the fledgling nation of Liberia. While some argued that the new black republic represented disposal rather than emancipation, a few intrepid men set out to explore their African home. African-American Exploration in West Africa collects the travel diaries of James L. Sims, George L. Seymour, and Benjamin J. K. Anderson, who explored the territory that is now Liberia and Guinea between 1858 and 1874. These remarkable diaries reveal the wealth and beauty of Africa in striking descriptions of its geography, people, flora, and fauna. The dangers of the journeys surface, too--Seymour was attacked and later died of his wounds, and his companion, Levin Ash, was captured and sold into slavery again. Challenging the notion that there were no black explorers in Africa, these diaries provide unique perspectives on 19th-century Liberian life and life in the interior of the continent before it was radically changed by European colonialism.
As its title suggests, this book reproduces James L. Sims and George L. Seymour's diaries of their voyages into the interior of Liberia in 1858, and Benjamin J.K. Anderson's assessment of the Liberian and Guinean hinterland in the late 1860s and early 1870s. The sketchy historical introduction makes the volume unsuitable for most undergraduates, but those with some knowledge of the area will find the carefully annotated diaries fascinating. Seymour, for example, initially opposed the American Colonization Society's plans to settle free blacks in Liberia as racist, but changed his mind after a visit in the 1840s led him to conclude that black men could achieve an equality in Liberia unavailable in the US. Ironically, black Americans carried with them the racial consciousness they sought to escape, and Liberian society was notable for its distinctions between mulattoes and blacks and its class divisions between settlers and indigenous Africans. Sims, Seymour, and Anderson, like white explorers before and after them, sought to bring Western Christianity, civilization, and commerce to the West African interior. Their fascination with the Africa they described so ably was couched in a US worldview. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.C. Higgs, University of Tennessee, Knoxville , Choice, July 2004 Indiana University Press Indiana University Press Indiana University Press
"[T]hose with some knowledge of the area will find the carefully annotated diaries fascinating.... Recommended." --Choice
About the Author
James Fairhead is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex.
Tim Geysbeek teaches history at Grand Valley Sate University and has taught at the ELWA Academy in Monrovia, Liberia. He has published his work in History in Africa and the Liberian Studies Journal.
Svend E. Holsoe is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Delaware. He has done extensive research on Liberia and is the founding editor of the Liberian Studies Journal.
Melissa Leach is Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Her research interests include issues of gender, environment, science, and history. She is the author of Rainforest Relations.
Table of Contents
Preliminary Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations
List of Maps
1. The Liberia of the Journeys
2. Journeys in the Interior
3. James L. Sims, 1858
4. George L. Seymour, 1858
5. Benjamin J. K. Anderson, 1868-1869
6. Benjamin J. K. Anderson, 1874
7. The Journeys and the Interior