Black colonization in transnational perspective

MadisonACSThis week, I finally managed to submit a funding application that would create an international research network dedicated to ‘Antislavery Colonization in Transnational Perspective’. The plan is to bring together scholars working on the many schemes to resettle black people (from Britain, the United States, Canada, and other places) in various locations around the Atlantic world. These schemes started in earnest with the creation of Sierra Leone in 1787 — an enterprise that was strangely (some might say unnervingly) coincidental with the departure of the First Fleet to Australia — and continued through the founding of Liberia by the American Colonization Society in 1820. I’m working on this project with Dr. Bronwen Everill of King’s College, London, who’s one of the few people to have written a comparative study of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Her recent book raises fascinating questions we’re hoping that the new network can answer: How was black colonization linked to the development of international law and humanitarianism in the late 18th and early 19th century? If these colonization episodes were synonymous with an expanding imperialism, why was the United States so reluctant to accept Liberia as a formal colony? And what we can we learn about the development of race theory and racial segregation in the Atlantic world from the lavishly ‘benevolent’ rhetoric of colonization supporters? I’ve probably jinxed the application by mentioning it here, but we should find out next summer if we’ve been successful in our bid. We already have some terrific partners on board — from the Center for the Study of Slavery and Social Justice at Brown University in the US, to the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, to the University of Liberia. If anyone in the CECS community would like to know more, we’d love to hear from you.

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