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HISTORIC ARTICLE
HISTORIC ARTICLE

Feb 6, 1820 CE: African Americans Migrate to Liberia

Feb 6, 1820 CE: African Americans Migrate to Liberia

On February 6, 1820, the first group of freed U.S. enslaved people to resettle in Africa departed from New York.

Grades

6 - 12

Subjects

Social Studies, U.S. History, World History

On February 6, 1820, the first group of formerly enslaved people in the United States to resettle in Africa departed from New York. An organization called the American Colonization Society, with funding from Congress, had been established to return them to the U.S. colony of Liberia, in West Africa. Kidnapping and enslaving people from Africa had been abolished in the United States in 1808, though the practice of keeping people and their children enslaved was still legal in many states. People believed that African Americans would experience greater freedom and opportunity “back” in Africa. However, there were problems. Though of African descent, many of these Americans had spent most or all of their lives in the United States. They were used to their American lifestyles, which had little in common with Liberian communities. Of those born in Africa, few had memories of its various peoples and land they were taken from. Even so, Liberia was probably not their ancestral home. To the thinking of the American Colonization Society, Africans simply came from Africa, so any land would do. However, Africa is a large continent, with thousands of ethnic groups spread across many different environments. Though most American enslaved people had come from West Africa, few were prepared to live in the tropics, or able to integrate with local peoples. Despite this, over the next few decades, thousands of formerly enslaved people were sent to Liberia. In 1847, it became the first African colony to gain independene as a nation.

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Editor
National Geographic Society
Producer
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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