In the 1860s, as America waged civil war, several thousand African Americans sought greater freedom by emigrating to the fledgling nation of Liberia. While some argued that the new black republic represented disposal rather than emancipation, a few intrepid men set out to explore their African home. African-American Exploration in West Africa collects the travel diaries of James L. Sims, George L. Seymour, and Benjamin J. K. Anderson, who explored the territory that is now Liberia and Guinea between 1858 and 1874. These remarkable diaries reveal the wealth and beauty of Africa in striking descriptions of its geography, people, flora, and fauna. The dangers of the journeys surface, too-Seymour was attacked and later died of his wounds, and his companion, Levin Ash, was captured and sold into slavery again. Challenging the notion that there were no black explorers in Africa, these diaries provide unique perspectives on 19th-century Liberian life and life in the interior of the continent before it was radically changed by European colonialism.
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Number of pages: 504
Weight: 879 g
Dimensions: 235 x 155 x 38 mm
As its title suggests, this book reproduces James L. Sims and George L. Seymour's diaries of their voyages into the interior of Liberia in 1858, and Benjamin J.K. Anderson's assessment of the Liberian and Guinean hinterland in the late 1860s and early 1870s. The sketchy historical introduction makes the volume unsuitable for most undergraduates, but those with some knowledge of the area will find the carefully annotated diaries fascinating. Seymour, for example, initially opposed the American Colonization Society's plans to settle free blacks in Liberia as racist, but changed his mind after a visit in the 1840s led him to conclude that black men could achieve an equality in Liberia unavailable in the US. Ironically, black Americans carried with them the racial consciousness they sought to escape, and Liberian society was notable for its distinctions between mulattoes and blacks and its class divisions between settlers and indigenous Africans. Sims, Seymour, and Anderson, like white explorers before and after them, sought to bring Western Christianity, civilization, and commerce to the West African interior. Their fascination with the Africa they described so ably was couched in a US worldview. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.-- C. Higgs * Choice *
[T]hose with some knowledge of the area will find the carefully annotated diaries fascinating. . . . Recommended.* Choice *
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