From Liberia to Black Panther

In 1785, Thomas Jefferson, governor of Virginia, wrote “Notes on the State of Virginia” in response to the twenty-two queries asked by French diplomat François Barbé-Marbois. Barbé-Marbois asked these questions of Jefferson in order to understand how America’s now free states were being governed. In Query XVI, Barbé-Marbois inquired about the administration of justice in Virginia, specifically concerning the issue of slavery. In regards to the possibility of emancipation, Jefferson suggested that all black people emigrate from the United States to a country in Africa. Jefferson believed that his proposition for post-emancipation would prevent any possibility of revolt from the slaves; in contrast, if emancipated slaves were allowed to stay in America, there is a strong chance that -because of centuries of abuse and barbaric treatment- they would lash out on their oppressors.

Jefferson proposes that the United States sends all blacks to another country to colonize and establish their independence. It would be fully funded by the United States government assigned organization later named the American Colonization Society. While in preparation for their voyage to an African country, Jefferson suggests sending them with “Arms, implements of household and of handicraft arts, seeds, pairs of useful domestic animals and etc” (Jefferson). He suggests sending them with the required necessities and helpful items to make it easier to survive and start colonizing this new country. He expressed explicitly that this alternative of emancipation needs to work or “Either America will emancipate its slaves, or America will suffer revolt of its slaves”( Jefferson). Thomas Jefferson was notorious for owning many slaves and DNA research shows that he has children containing Africa descent, however, he was very hypocritical within his viewpoints on slavery regarding his own situation in which he did not want to emancipate his slaves. Though Jefferson thought that this would be the best alternative for blacks in America, slave owners, freed blacks, and other members who cared about their economic status felt that the blacks absence would obliterate the economy since the blacks were the ones who kept America running during that time.

It was noted that when the American Colonization Society formed many people were skeptical of their intentions. The skeptically came from the idea proposed by the founder Robert Finley when he suggested taking a few thousand freed blacks to an uncolonized country in Africa as a test run to see if they would prosper without the help of the United States. Before the voyage commenced, ACS member Mr. Levi T. Walker wrote in his journal owned now by the University of Michigan in 1842, that “several of these emigrants will have horses wagons and etc., things to sell when they get to Lynchburg. They are heavily depending very much on the sale of these to get to Liberia.” Walker also wrote that the ACS will only pay for their voyage to Liberia but he stated in the quote above that once the many emigrants who own these goods to sell, get to Lynchburg, Virginia, the new colonizers will have to sell as many things as possible to get money to be able to prosper and live in Liberia. So, the idea is the ACS will only withdrawal their guidance and help once they have arrived in Liberia, but is the voyage forced or voluntary?

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