African American, Black Star Line, Civil Rights, Discrimination, Emigration, Henry Louis Gates Jr, Human Rights, Implicit Bias, Many Rivers to Cross PBS, Racial Bias, Reconciliation, Slavery, Social Reform, The Great Migration, The Traveler, Who Led the First Back to Africa Effort?
PART I: Who was the first to lead a Back to Africa campaign?
In 1815, Captain Paul Cuffee, led the first successful effort to relocate African Americans back to Africa.
Free African Americans initially supported his effort, then there appeared to be opposition from the larger African American community that expressed fears of any involvement would prompt their slave holders to get rid of them “……to make their property more secure.”
Slavery in America was legally abolished in 1865. This would be 246 years after the first slave ship with captive Africans landed at Jamestown, Virginia, and were bought as slaves (1619).
According to what has been published by historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Paul Cuffee is the first free African American to visit the White House and have an audience with a sitting president. Cuffee by profession, was a sea captain, entrepreneur, and considered the wealthiest African American of his time.
Paul Cuffee was born on Cuttyhunk Island, off Southern Massachusetts, on Jan. 17, 1759, and died on Sept. 7, 1817. He was one of 10 children of a freed slave, a farmer named Kofi Slocum. (“Kofi” is a Twi word for a boy born on Friday, so we know that he was an Ashanti from Ghana.) Kofi Anglicized his name to “Cuffee.”
In 1766, Kofi purchased a 116-acre farm in Dartmouth, Mass., on Buzzard’s Bay, which he left upon his death in 1772 to Paul and his brother, John. When his father died, Paul changed his surname from Slocum to Cuffee, and Paul began what would prove to be an extraordinarily successful life at sea.
On Dec. 10, 1815, Cuffee made history by transporting 38 African Americans (including 20 children) ranging in age from 6 months to 60 years from the United States to Sierra Leone on his brig, SHIP NAME the Traveler, at a cost of $5,000.00. When they arrived on Feb. 3, 1816, Coffees’ passengers became the first African Americans who willingly returned to Africa through an African American initiative.
Cuffee’s dream of a wholesale African American return to the continent, however, soon lost support from the free African American community, many of whom had initially expressed support for it. As James Forten sadly reported in a letter to Cuffee dated Jan. 25, 1817, a meeting of several thousand black men had occurred at Richard Allen’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, to discuss the merits of Cuffee’s colonization program and the work of the African Institution. The news was devastating: “Three thousand at least attended, and there was not one soul that was in favor of going to Africa. They think that the slave holders want to get rid of them so as to make their property more secure.” And then in August, Forten co-authored a statement that declared that “The plan of colonizing is not asked for by us. We renounce and disclaim any connection with it.”
When Paul Cuffee died just a month later, on Sept. 7, 1817, “the dream of a black-led emigration movement,” Dorothy Sterling concludes, “ended with him.” However, the cause of black emigration would be taken up by a succession of black leaders, including Henry Highland Garnet, Bishop James T. Holly, Martin R. Delany, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and, of course, Marcus Mosiah Garvey and his SHIP NAME the Black Star Line.
[ Source: Published work of Historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr., with reference to Historian Donald R. Wright.]
There was great contemplation. Wish I could have been privy to those discussions and hear what the arguments for and against the opportunity to escape slavery may have been at that time. Perhaps many wished to stay because in their view they would be better off eventually with time, and be able to make a living; a vibrate livelihood with work and all the rights, freedoms, and benefits, others had access to in America at the time.
Might it have been a discussion upon the fear of their own freedom? Or, from yet another viewpoint, maybe the debate to accept a passage fare of $5,000.00 was too expensive a price to pay in the year 1815.
It would seem, based on the history, many resisted emigration efforts due to hopes a society of equality and freedom for all was on the horizon. The hope was all would be fairly incorporated into an “American Dream” and the American laws would ensure a blinded embrace without bias of the countries past foundations from which it was formed. They hoped. Allegiance. A unspoken loyalty with really little evidence to make it so.
On the horizon.
They waited for this full legal and social embrace to be incorporated into America.
In reality, many generations lived through those 246 years with slow to little incorporation nor improvements. Leap frog to 2016, while there have been substantive progress forward on issues of equality and rooting out institutional and cultural discrimination in America, it persists.
Today, discrimination persists against African Americans in the form of unequal incarnation rates under the Criminal Justice System, and the continued escalating arbitrary fatal use of force and violence directed towards African Americans by Law Enforcement.
Meanwhile a disproportionate number of African American males are being fatally shot at the hands of Police Officers, often there is video coverage of the event, and the officer does not receive any legal consequences for their actions.
In a modern society such as America, all have the right to due process under the law. Everyone in the general public and Officers of the court including Police Officers are afforded due process. Furthermore, I would add Police Officers do not have the right to withhold due process rights from the American citizens it is legally sworn to protect. Police Officers are not allowed to dismiss a Criminal Justice System which has a process of a criminal arrest, hearing, convection, sentencing, etc. What many are protesting in 2016 is just this. This society has seen video after video of its young African American men shot to death before any other legal process can take place. Many have made reference to the reality [a few] officers have misappropriated employment titles of lawyer, magistrate, juror, and executioner on citizens often for mild infractions or for doing nothing at all.
When do you know when it’s time to leave? If, at all?
“We need more steam, more speed Captain.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often talked about a concept; a call to action, often referred to as “the fierce urgency of now.”
In his time, and even now, Dr. King is widely quoted for his commitment to non-violence and our shared quest for equality under the law and humanity. He spoke to the Civil Rights Movement occurring during his life, and constantly reminded leaders and supporters who fought for Civil Rights that they had a large battle. In hindsight, the battle needed more speed because the movement lasted over 14 years.
This is a long time to suffer the injustice of inequality. Oppressive even of one’s ability to live their life freely as they choose. Wouldn’t it be apathetic to not seize an opportunity to divorce yourself from such suffrage?
After enduring several decades of not fully being incorporated into the idealism of an American dream, what would you do?
While visiting Louisiana some years ago for vacation, I toured two plantations. The tour guide commented that in those days the plantation owners would invite visitors who would have to travel great distances and once there, it would be common for visitors to spent months. And, when it was time to go; typically because the provisions were running low, the visitor would receive pineapple in their room in the morning. The polite signal the visit had come to a close.
We, as American’s, have been active in debate for some years and recently the dialogue has escalated to heights not unprecedented, yet unexpected to many. When I reflect on what’s occurring today it seems surreal. As if history is repeating itself reminiscent to the Civil Rights Movement 1954 – 1968.
The goal of that movement was to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans.
Things are getting better but not solved.
Perhaps we [African Americans ] have over stayed our welcome and were never afforded the subtle nuances of being served pineapple to let us know. There are other ways to make someone feel unwelcomed.
On my Twitter account I created a poll question: “What’s the biggest challenge regarding violence and racial tensions in America?”
Things are improving
Never ending struggle
Not addressing core issue
Three responses total at the time of this article and all selected “Not addressing core issue.”
I’d love to hear your perspective on the question. Leave me a comment.
With regards to the current level of police shootings and racial climate in America, President Barack Obama during a July 9, 2016, NATO Conference in Poland press conference was ask if he believed there was a divide in America.
The President replied the divide is not as great as many have suggested, and commented on the pace of change and progress. He added, it’s like every generation plants seeds for the next generation. Someone else down the line will benefit from the shade the tree provides that the previous generation planted.
Are there any 2016 Back to Africa Campaigns?
I was curious. So, I did a bit of research and found three. Perhaps there are more, but it really did not take me long to find these here.
[ 1 ] Anthony, of United States.
[ 2 ] Larry Mitchell, of Indiana.
[ 3 ] Kyle Canty, of New York.
Kyle Canty, of New York, applied for refugee status in Canada, citing he has fears of police brutality. This article was published by Jason Silverstein Nov 2015. In 2016, we learned Canty’s claim was not approved reportedly because of pending legal proceedings in America he must resolve first.
:::: Until Next Time: à Donf ::::
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