Historical Methodology and Writing the Liberian Past: The Case of Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century1

By Allen, William E. | History In Africa, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Historical Methodology and Writing the Liberian Past: The Case of Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century1


Allen, William E., History In Africa


Some of the late nineteenth century success of Liberia coffee, sugar, and other commodities can be attributed to the leasing of plantations to enterprising foreigners, although a few leading politicians did own successful farms ... For most Americo-Liberians, the role of dirt farmer was decidedly beneath their station.2

Yet the reasons for this apathy among most Americo-Liberians for agriculture, which prevailed up to the early 187Os, were not far to seek. The majority of them being newly emancipated slaves, who had in servitude in America been used to being forced to work, erroneously equated their newly won freedom with abstinence from labour.3

I

Both arguments are inaccurate, yet the authors made essential contributions to the writing of Liberian history. J. Gus liebenow became renowned within Liberian academic circles for his earlier book, Liberia: the Evolution of Privilege. In that book he analyzed the policy that enabled the minority Americo-Liberians (descendants of free blacks from the United States who founded Liberia in 1822), to monopolize political and economic power to the exclusion of the majority indigenous Africans for more than a century.4 M. B. Akpan dissected Liberia's dubious political history and concluded that Americo-Liberian authority over the indigenous population, was identical to the discriminatory and oppressive policy practiced by European colonizers in Africa.5

liebenow and Akpan's charge of Americo-Liberian antipathy for agriculture was not new. Scattered accounts of this allegation appeared now and again in the nineteenth-century Liberian archives.6 After the turn of the century, the charge of Americo-Liberians' aversion to agriculture became apparent in secondary sources.7 Its continual appearance in recent historiography (especially following the revisionism that characterized African nationalist history in the 1960s and 1970s) suggests a general acceptance.8 This study examines the methodology employed by scholars (including Liebenow and Akpan) to determine how they arrived at what is turning out to be a colossal misrepresentation-Americo-Liberians' disdain for agriculture.

II

Repatriation of free blacks to Africa in the nineteenth century was conceived out of the growing trepidation that white America held for a burgeoning population of free blacks, by widespread racism in the United States, and by the resolve of a few philanthropists. The ideology of equality that enlivened the American War of Independence of also inspired slaves, and some slave masters, to fight for emancipation. Consequently, by 1810, the free black population in the United States had climbed to 150,000, nearly tripling the 60,000 number recorded in the census of 1790. Although the increase was much slower in the decades after 1810, the population of emancipated blacks continued to grow.9

It was this growth that spawned fear in many white Americans. Thomas Jefferson's dire prediction about the danger posed by the expanding black population was typical: "[d]eep-rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousands recollections by the blacks . . . will divide us . . . and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race."10 Jefferson also warned that "a revolution of the wheel of fortune" might place the slave over the master.11 These ominous predictions, combined with a wellspring of virulent racism in the United States, galvanized the ongoing national debate about the repatriation of free blacks to Africa.

The most crucial impetus of the colonization movement, however, was provided by Rev. Robert Finley of New Jersey, who was convinced that the United States had a moral obligation to "repair the injuries" resulting from the slave trade.12 Noting that "[e]very thing connected with their [slaves'] condition, including their colour is against them" in the United States, Finley and a handful of men espoused African colonization as the solution to the "Negro" problem. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Historical Methodology and Writing the Liberian Past: The Case of Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century1
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.