While President Abraham Lincoln is applauded for emancipating the American slaves in 1862, it was not necessarily because he wanted to end slavery. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it…,” Lincoln said on one occasion. What really concerned Lincoln and the vast majority of white Americans was the possibility of a freed slave uprising.
Like most people of the time, Lincoln himself could not accept the concept of equal treatment for blacks and whites: “… Make them [Negroes] politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not,” Lincoln said in a speech in 1854. Lincoln was right. Though most slave owners had children from slave women, the thought of equality between the two races was un-thinkable. Their solution would be to send the slaves back to Africa.
In 1817, the American Colonization Society (ACS) was formed with the support of Kentucky politician Henry Clay; Francis Scott Key, author of The Star Spangled Banner; Bushrod Washington, nephew of President George Washington and Supreme Court Justice; and William Thornton, architect of the U.S. Capitol. All were slave owners with moderate politics. Quakers also supported the effort, believing emancipation of slaves impossible. Land in Africa was purchased from local tribes for the purpose of creating a colony for slave owners to ship their slaves back to Africa. In 1822, approximately 86 freed slaves voluntarily boarded a ship bound for Africa. Over the next 40 years, nearly 20,000 former slaves would arrive in Liberia.
One Liberian settler, Reverend Lott Cary, left a pastorate of over 800 free blacks in Richmond, Virginia, to go to Liberia. When asked why he went, Lott replied, “I am an African, and in this country, however meritorious my conduct, and respectable my character, I cannot receive the credit due to either. I wish to go to a country where I shall be estimated by my merits, not by my complexion; and I feel bound to labor for my suffering race.” Though Cary had more than most blacks at the time, including his freedom, he identified himself clearly as African.
This same type of connection to Africa is possible for the African-Americans today. Reach out and connect with a heritage deeply rooted within. Imagine what can happen if we use the freedom we have today to help and support each other in the United States and Africa. Lack of support, conflict with local tribes, disease and dissent led to the collapse of the American Colonization Society. No one wanted to declare American sovereignty on African soil, so they declared Liberia “free” and abandoned it, making Liberia the oldest nation in Africa to gain independence. The first and seventh president of Liberia was African-American Joseph Jenkins Roberts born in Norfolk, Virginia March 15, 1809. He went to Liberia when he was twenty years old. He owned a trading store at one point and later became the president when Liberia became independent from the United States in 1847. Roberts served eight years during his first term (1848-1856).
Later, at age 62, Joseph Jenkins Roberts served as Liberia’s seventh president. In his second term, Roberts served four years. He died on Feb. 24, 1876 at the age of 66 in Monrovia, Liberia (West Africa). In Liberia today, there are remnants of those who made the voyage of their ancestors in the opposite direction. The Liberian capital is called Monrovia, after American President James Monroe.
Five percent of today’s Liberian population is descendants of the American slaves who settled Liberia, many of whom are among the nation’s high-ranking people. The Liberian flag looks much like the American flag, except that there is one star instead of fifty small ones. The hope of Liberia represents the unity and love that Africans can have again: One star, one love, and one Africa.
Africa is a continent, not a country. There are 53 countries in Africa. It is the second largest continent in the world, both in area and population. Asia is the largest continent. Despite the perception by some in the West of one giant safari full of lions and savages, Africa is a continent rich in people (the population is over 1 billion) and resources (the oil rush continues in Africa) with many large cities such as Abidjan, the second-largest French speaking city in the world with over 5 million residents, in my native Ivory Coast.
To control a nation of people, the first step is to take away their language, then their history and sadly, their families. While many slaves were sold and separated from their immediate families, they were shamed, beaten and taught differently than their extended African families as well. For this reason, I encourage every African-American to visit some part of Africa at least once in his or her life to see firsthand the good and the bad.
Media sources and outlets have been successful at keeping Africa and the African-Americans apart for centuries. We cannot let this culture clash continue. Our connection to Africa is real and is a fact; let’s abolish mental slavery that continues a cycle of captivity long after a nation of people has been free. Some feel disconnected from Africa because media images show conditions that are not conducive as a modern society.
True enough, there are some hard things going on in Africa, but consider this: How can the African people stand so proud and meek in such adversity? Why are we [Africans] always happy to return home, once we are or become citizens in the US? We always keep Africa in our hearts. She is in our blood, in our mindsets. Perhaps it was [is] this strength and determination which kept the slaves alive under circumstances which should have killed them.
Or perhaps it is this mindset which will return African-American culture to the dignity and respect it deserves. We must not be afraid to face the legacy of slavery in this country and focus on the forgiveness required to move forward. We don’t have to dwell on the past, but we can come together and celebrate the future of both Africa and America.
As it is written in the Holy Bible, “Seek and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7, KJV). Our native hands are reaching out to our American cousins. Our roots are your roots. Use these notes and the Africans in your community to uncover the gift of Africa that is yours for the taking. Dig deeper and see the truth.
In today’s society, relations between race is so very much better even though we still have more work to do, but all races are to be thanked for their efforts in making a better world as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed. God is also showing us humans a sign of coming together, as in the election and reelection of the first black president, whose mother is Caucasian and father is directly from Africa (where slaves came from), he is the product of both sides and directly related to Africa.
I personally thank all races for aggressively voting the first black president in office, because without such collectiveness and support we could not do it alone. That only shows that the world is changing slowly but surely for a better relationship between all races as dreamed by Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. As we benefit today by the work of Dr. King and the civil right movement of the 60’s, lets us allow the future generations to benefit in more ways to improve relations tomorrow when we are no longer here.
My voice is for all of Africa, crying out to those who sprung from her shores. “Come home in your heart.” I truly believe, “We must give Africa and our-selves another chance.” Let us remember our heritage as they say in my Mandingo Tribe, “it doesn’t matter how long a piece of wood is lying in the river, it will never change to a fish.”
ISBN-10: 0615305075 | ISBN-13: 9780615305073