The notion that black and white Americans could not live together in harmony both socially and politically in the same country led to a movement to relocate African-Americans to Liberia, a West African country, established by the government of United States in conjunction with the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1822. Advocates of the idea such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln among others portrayed migration to Liberia as an opportunity to gain liberty in their own country. On the other hand, ACS officials argued that removing relocating freed blacks to Liberia would ensure security of slavery trade since the whites believed that the presence of free African Americans instigated slave unrest (Clegg, 2004).
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Clegg’s book, the price of Liberty: African Americans and the making of Liberia is a thoroughly researched and comprehensive narrative that examines the American background, the indifferences between the white and black Americans and the lives of African Americans after their migration to Liberia between 1820 and 1893. Clegg further gives an in-depth experience of the 2,030 blacks Americans who traded racism in North Carolina for new set of challenges that came with migration toLiberia and eventually the conflicted founding of Liberia amidst setbacks such as diseases such as malaria which claimed the lives of some of them as well as relationship-conflicts with the indigenous Liberians and Africans recaptured from trans-Atlantic slave ships (2004).
Strengths, Weaknesses and Critique
One of the major strengths of this book is its careful attention on how different factors influenced the colonization movement over time. Instead of just giving a description of the emigration process to Liberia, Clegg goes ahead to detail four distinct migratory waves. He points out how the influence of the North Carolina Friends led to the first wave being formed, as well as the role trans-Atlantic feedback played in making the wave subside (Lubkeman, 2006).
This study is especially valuable because of Clegg’s unscrupulous attempt to support his arguments and sentiments outside the academic circle. His analysis is based more extensively on letters and accounts which in the past have been overlooked thus revealing the true complexity of African American distinctiveness (Clegg, 2004). My only critique is the fact that Clegg only focuses on just one particular group of individuals, African Americans. Therefore it suits mostly readers who have gone through books witth good political history of Liberia such as The Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia (Sawyer, 1992).
Biographical information of the author
Claude Andrew Clegg, a history Professor at the University of Indiana, Bloomington since 1993, specializes in teaching African Diaspora history with a focus on African American experience. He earned his B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after which he pursued a graduate degree in Michigan in the early 90s. Though originally from Salisbury town, he now lives in Graham, both located in North Carolina. He is the author to books such as The Price of Liberty: African Americans and the Making of Liberia (2004), An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad (1997) among others. Currently, he is writing a book on Lynching that took place in North Carolina in the early twentieth century (Clegg, 2004).
Clegg’s work not only gives the history of the shifting currents both socially and politically on both sides of the Atlantic, but it also points out their influence on one another. Thus this study is indispensable to scholars of Africa-American and American origin the same way it to scholars from Liberia.
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