Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Two very different directions in the ninteenth century for Black America,from two very different men.Fredrick Douglas vs Joseph J Roberts
Joseph Jenkins Roberts was born 1809 in Norfolk, Virginia.He was born free during slavery, a product of a white father and a slave mistress.He was more octoroon than Black meaning he more favored his White ancestry.As a young man he worked in his stepfathers boating business on the James River where a light skinned African Americans acquired wealth.After his stepfather had passed he continued to work in the business.
The American Colonization Society excites the young Roberts
Paul Cauffe another African American in the shipping business saw an opportunity to build AA settlements on the coast of West Africa.He predated the ACS by about 35 years and built the first of these settlements for ex slaves in Freetown.They were a safe haven for Blacks.There were no need to fear slave catchers,racist,and slave traders.After the uprising in Santa Domingo where many whites were massacred on their plantations.Southern plantation owners knew the inevitable was going to happen to them.So along with abolitionist and leading statesmen of the day there was a meeting in Washington DC to fund the idea of a colony to rid the country of freed Blacks.The liberals were acting out of charity while the slaveholders were acting out of fear of losing there slaves.
After hearing of the plans of the American Colonization Society to colonize the African coast at Cape Mesurado near modern-day Monrovia, the Roberts family decided to join an expedition. The restrictions of the Black Code in Virginia on free blacks played an important part. In addition, the Roberts family was strongly religious and wanted to evangelize the indigenous people of Africa. On February 9, 1829 they set off for Africa on the Harriet. Joseph Roberts, his wife Sarah and their unnamed infant traveled to Liberia together, along with his mother and five of his six siblings. On the same ship was James Spriggs Payne, who would later become Liberia's fourth president.
In Monrovia, Roberts and his two brothers established a business with the help of their friend William Colson of Petersburg. The company exported palm products, camwood, and ivory to the United States, and traded imported American goods at the company store in Monrovia. In 1835, Colson emigrated to Liberia, but died shortly after his arrival. Expanding into coastal trade, the Roberts family became successful members of the local establishment. During this time, Joseph's brother John Wright Roberts entered the ministry of the Liberia Methodist Church, founded by Americans. Later he became a bishop. After starting as a trader, the youngest son, Henry Roberts, studied medicine at the Berkshire Medical School (now part of the University of Massachusetts Medical School) in Massachusetts. Joseph Roberts was successful enough to pay for his brother's studies. Henry returned to Liberia to work as a physician.
In 1833, Joseph Roberts became high sheriff of the colony. One of his responsibilities was to organize settler militias to travel to the interior to collect taxes from the indigenous peoples and put down their rebellions against colonial rule. In 1839, the American Colonization Society appointed Roberts vice governor. Two years later, after the death of governor Thomas Buchanan, Roberts was appointed as the first mixed-race governor of Liberia. In 1846, Roberts asked the legislature to declare the independence of Liberia, but also to maintain cooperation with the American Colonization Society. The legislature called for a referendum, in which voters chose independence. On July 26, 1847, Roberts declared Liberia independent. He won the first presidential election on October 5, 1847, and was sworn into office on January 3, 1848, with Stephen Allen Benson as vice president.
Liberia along with Haiti,the Martin Delaney explorations and several others represented a different vision for the future of African Americans.The idea of leaving the USA to form a nation of their own had more support among Black people than most historians would admit.This is why the Garvey movement grew so fast.The foundation was laid generations before him.
Fredrick Douglass was a good leader in his own right but he believed the opposite of JJ Roberts.Roberts appealed to his Black brothers and sisters to emigrate that Liberia offered them a chance to be full human beings something America never would give them.Douglass is more known because he fits the narrative about Blacks in America.That they are a people who love America so much they will endure any suffering and humiliation to be here.Nothing could be further from the truth.In fact if you look at the exodus of Blacks to the West,Canada,South America,South Africa,Liberia it was all about finding Zion.The same is even true today many are led to believe the only place in the world is America when the Chinese,Indians,ect are flooding the continent of Africa.Many people will quote Douglass but few know Roberts.Roberts maintained a relationship with several heads of state.He was received by them.He had very heartfelt meetings about the role the West could playing in stopping the slave trade and giving blacks a home in Africa where they belong.