The 19th century was a time of great upheaval and transformation in America. The country was rapidly expanding, and with that expansion came the influx of millions of immigrants seeking better opportunities and a new life. At the same time, there was a movement to colonize African Americans and Indigenous peoples in Africa, which was funded by the American Colonization Society. This essay will explore the complex and often troubling history of colonialism and its impact on America, from the Golden Door of 1860-1906 to the forced migration of Indigenous Americans to Liberia.
The Golden Door of 1860-1906 refers to the period of time when millions of immigrants from Europe arrived in New York City, seeking a new life in America. These immigrants came from all over Europe, and many of them were fleeing poverty, famine, and political unrest. They were drawn to America because of the promise of opportunity and a better life, but they also faced many challenges and hardships upon arrival.
One of the most significant challenges that these immigrants faced was discrimination and prejudice. Many Americans viewed them as inferior and uneducated, and they were often subjected to harsh living conditions and low-paying jobs. However, despite these challenges, the immigrants persevered, and they played a significant role in shaping America’s colonialist culture and economy.
While the immigration of Europeans to America was happening, there was another movement happening, which sought to colonize African Americans and Indigenous peoples in Africa. This movement was funded by the American Colonization Society, a non-profit organization that believed that the best solution to the problem of slavery was to remove African Americans from America and send them to Africa.
One of the most prominent figures in this movement was Levi Coffin, a Quaker abolitionist who had helped many slaves escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Coffin believed that the best way to help African Americans was to send them to Africa, where they could live free from the oppression and discrimination they faced in America. With the help of his wife Catherine, he raised funds and organized the migration of hundreds of African Americans to Liberia.
At the same time, Harriet Tubman was leading Indigenous peoples to the north through the Underground Railroad, a project of Levi Coffin and Catherine Coffin. But instead of taking them to freedom in the North, she was taking them to Liberia in Africa. Tubman believed that Liberia was a place where Indigenous peoples could live free from the oppression and discrimination they faced in America. However, this was not the case, and many of them faced persecution and discrimination in Liberia.
The migration of African Americans and Indigenous peoples to Liberia sparked a civil war in the country, as those who had been forcibly removed from America fought to return to their homeland. The American Colonization Society eventually disbanded, and the idea of colonizing African Americans and Indigenous peoples in Africa was abandoned. However, the legacy of this movement continues to impact America today, and it is a reminder of the dangers of colonialism and the need to recognize the humanity and dignity of all peoples.
Members of the Liberian Senate, mostly comprising indigenous Americans misnomer “freed African American slaves”, 1893 © Corbis/Getty Images.
In conclusion, the Golden Door of 1860-1906 and the movement to colonize African Americans and Indigenous peoples in Africa were two significant events in America’s history that shaped the country’s culture and identity. While the immigration of millions of Europeans to America was made to appear as a positive development in many ways, it also highlighted the discrimination and prejudice that many immigrants faced. At the same time, the movement to colonize African Americans and Indigenous peoples in Africa was a misguided attempt to solve the problem of slavery and discrimination in America. It was a reminder of the dangers of colonialism and the need to recognize the humanity and dignity of all peoples.
- Berlin, Ira. The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations. Penguin Books, 2011.
- Coffin, Levi. Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad. Nabu Press, 2012.
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- The American Colonization Society Collection. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/collections/american-colonization-society/about-this-collection/
- Tubman, Harriet. Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People. Dover Publications, 2003.
- Hochschild, Adam. Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves. Mariner Books, 2006.
- Jordan, Winthrop D. White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812. UNC Press Books, 2012.
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- Library of Congress. “African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection.” https://www.loc.gov/collections/african-american-perspectives-1800-to-1900/about-this-collection/
- The New York Public Library. “The Black Experience in Children’s Books: Selections from the New York Public Library.” https://www.nypl.org/collections/nypl-recommendations/lists/childrens-books-black-experience
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