CFP-Panel "Colonization, Emigration and the Back to Africa Movement"
For the upcoming annual conference of the French Association for American Studies, which will be held in La Rochelle, France, from May 27 to May 30 2015, we are seeking additional proposals for a panel we are organizing on "Colonization, Emigration and the Back to Africa Movement" (see CFP below for more information).
Call for papers
Colonization, Emigration and the Back to Africa Movement: The Migratory Flows, the Historical Narratives, and the Circulation of the African-American Diasporic Experience
In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the widespread emancipation of slaves and the resulting significant growth of the free colored population, led many observers to believe that racial cohabitation was impossible. The removal and geographic separation of manumitted slaves, whether voluntary or not, gradually became the prerequisite for their emancipation. Owing to the indefatigable efforts of the American Colonization Society, which was founded in 1816, the colonization scheme soon came to offer a durable solution to the black problem – from a white American point of view. Interestingly enough, although some prominent and vocal African-American leaders were then firmly opposed to colonization, in the face of continuing discrimination and dehumanization within the United States, increasing numbers of African-Americans were prepared to consider emigration as a "solution" – be it temporary or not – to escape oppression. And indeed, the idea of gathering the free black community around the project of a "black nationality" beyond the borders of the United-States became increasingly appealing to a segment of the free black community, who had grown tired of being relegated to second-class citizenship and of fighting against racial discrimination. In the early nineteenth century, these free Blacks identified themselves more and more as belonging to a black diaspora born out of slavery. Although Pan-Africanism developed towards the end of the nineteenth century, as an expression of the solidarity which united exploited people of color in response to European as well as American imperialism and colonialism, a diasporic consciousness emerged among the free African-American community - and other black communities all around the world - in the first half of the nineteenth century.
This panel seeks to explore the different aspects of the African-American diasporic experience, by analyzing how, from Prince Saunders's Haitian project to Marcus Garvey's back-to-Africa movement, and up to the present day, some African-Americans have striven to unite the black diaspora in places beyond the reach of U.S government control - in Canada, in Africa, in Central America, in the Western Territories, in Haiti, or more recently in South Africa. Another aim of this panel is to examine how some abolitionists and politicians, such as Abraham Lincoln, sought to deport free Blacks out of the United States, a phenomenon which has received little scholarly attention and that is fairly unknown to the general public. This panel will naturally interrogate the sensitive issue of what it means to live together, which is still a topical question today. Panelists are thus encouraged to reflect on the driving forces behind nationalisms and on the tendency for members of racial, religious, or other minority groups to voluntarily isolate themselves as a result of social exclusion.
Keywords: African-Americans, Colonization, Emigration, Pan-Africanism, Diaspora, Agency, historical narratives, historical sources, circulation.
Historical period: From the American Revolution to the present
Lawrence Aje, Associate Professor in American history, University of Montpellier
Claire Bourhis-Mariotti, Associate Professor in American history, University Paris 8