Colonization and Emigration
The Reasons for Emigration and Colonization
The Colonization of Sierra Leone
The Colonization of Liberia
Migration to Haiti
Migrations to Other Lands
The Debate over Emigration and Colonization
Marcus Garvey's Back-to-Africa Movement
Consequences of Colonization and Emigration

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< OverviewThe Colonization of Sierra Leone >

African Americans' interest in colonization was engendered by the dramatic increase in restrictions placed on them during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The slave system in the South was progressively intensified. The region's agriculturally derived economic prosperity depended on slavery: one-third of its population consisted of African-Americans in bondage. Throughout the South, laws were passed that prohibited their manumission.

Meanwhile, rising racism made conditions for Northern blacks more oppressive. The growth of the free black population - 500,000 by 1860 - was yet another factor in the effort to keep the nation's African Americans on an ever-tightening leash. They faced voting restrictions and were, for all intents and purposes, excluded from the justice system. By the 1830s, state and federal regulations, popular pressure, and social custom had dispatched them to the very bottom rungs of the social, economic, and political ladders.

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the constitutional amendments giving them citizenship and voting rights led many African Americans to hope they would finally be integrated into American society; but by the end of Reconstruction in 1877, white Northerners' interest in the problems of recently freed slaves had cooled. The return of the Democratic Party to power in the South was accompanied by mounting Ku Klux Klan violence and intimidation.

Ways were found - election fraud, poll taxes, confusing balloting schemes, and suffrage disqualification - to nullify black political strength. Supreme Court decisions declaring the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional and upholding legal segregation sped up the process of black subordination. The federal government also enacted immigration and naturalization laws that effectively limited citizenship to whites.

In the South, African Americans were relegated back to the farm and, with little or no money to buy land, they had no choice but to work as tenant farmers or sharecroppers on white-owned property or as agricultural laborers earning meager wages. By the turn of the twentieth century, only 20 percent of African Americans owned their property and were able to maintain some small degree of independence.

Though people had continuously struggled against bias and oppression, there were always some who believed that ameliorating their condition was ultimately impossible. They favored emigration, and some advocated the establishment of colonies in Africa.

< Overview
The Colonization of Sierra Leone >