Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

Black Nationalism and Independence Movements

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Paul Cuffe, in an engraving from a drawing by John Pole of Bristol, England

Courtesy of New Bedford Whaling Museum

As early as the turn of the nineteenth century, many African Americans believed that returning to Africa was the most viable solution to the bleak social situation in the United States. One of the wealthiest black people in his time, the sea captain and philanthropist Paul Cuffe encouraged the return of African Americans to Africa. In 1815, Cuffe along with thirty-eight African Americans sailed to Sierra Leone in Cuffe's ship, The Traveller. While there had been earlier Back-to-Africa efforts, Cuffe's was the first one initiated by an African American. While suspicious of their intentions, Cuffe also worked with the American Colonization Society (ACS), formed in 1817 by a group of white politicians and clergymen in order to remove free blacks from the United States and return them to Africa. Black nationalists had much to say about the barely veiled racist motivations of the ACS but Cuffe chose to work with the group, using their funds in order to help his own cause

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