Colonization after Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement

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Colonization after Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement. By Phillip W. Magness and Sebastian N. Page. (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, c. 2011. Pp. [xiv], 164. $34.95, ISBN 978-0-8262-1909-1.)

More than seventy-five years ago, historian James G. Randall declared that Abraham Lincoln may be "the most overworked subject in American history" ("Has the Lincoln Theme Been Exhausted?" American Historical Review, 41 [January 1936], 270). Yet today, thanks in part to the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in 2009 and the Civil War sesquicentennial beginning in 2011, Lincoln studies are flourishing. Nevertheless, as Phillip W. Magness and Sebastian N. Page argue, Lincoln's colonizationist activity after the Emancipation Proclamation has "escaped almost all historical attention" (p. viii). In Colonization after Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement, Magness and Page explore "one such unnoticed project," Lincoln's last major attempt to colonize freed slaves in the British West Indies (p. 10).

Colonization after Emancipation argues that newly uncovered evidence--including the president's June 1863 order authorizing a British colonial agent to begin recruiting freed slaves to British Honduras--proves Lincoln continued his support of colonizing freed blacks much longer than previously thought. With enviable deftness Magness and Page document the complicated story of Lincoln and "the colonization narrative from 1863 to 1865" (p. 9). Aided by Lincoln's direct encouragement and approval, the United States government spent the last part of 1862 and early 1863 gearing up for "a 'second wave'" of colonization projects, "wherein the United States would enter into partnership with foreign governments to encourage the emigration of free blacks to designated sites in the Caribbean" (p. …