Peculiar RhetoricSlavery, Freedom, and the African Colonization Movement

Peculiar RhetoricSlavery, Freedom, and the African Colonization Movement

Bjørn F. Stillion Southard

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9781496823694

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Abstract

The African colonization movement plays a peculiar role in the study of racial equality in the United States. For white colonizationists, the movement was positioned as a compromise between slavery and abolition. For free blacks, colonization offered the hope of freedom, but not within America’s borders. Bjørn F. Stillion Southard shows how politics and identity were negotiated in middle of the public discourse on race, slavery, and freedom in America. Operating from a position of relative power, white advocates argued that colonization was worthy of support from the federal government. Stillion Southard analyzes the speeches of Henry Clay, Elias B. Caldwell, and Abraham Lincoln as efforts to engage with colonization at the level of deliberation. Between Clay and Caldwell’s speeches at the founding of the American Colonization Society in 1816 and Lincoln’s final public effort to encourage colonization in 1862, Stillion Southard explores the speeches and writings of free blacks who grappled with colonization’s conditional promises of freedom. The book examines an array of discourses to explore the complex issues of identity facing free blacks who attempted to meaningfully engage in colonization efforts. From a peculiarly voiced Counter Memorial against the ACS, to the letters of wealthy black merchant Louis Sheridan negotiating for his passage to Liberia, to the civically-minded orations of Hilary Teage in Liberia, Peculiar Rhetoric brings into light the intricacies of blacks who attempted to meaningfully engage in colonization.