Liberty Brought Us Here
The True Story of American Slaves Who Migrated to Liberia
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Between 1820 and 1913, approximately 16,000 black people left the United States to start new lives in Liberia, Africa, in what was at the time the largest out-migration in US history. When Tolbert Major, a former Kentucky slave and single father, was offered his own chance for freedom, he accepted. He, several family members, and seventy other people boarded the Luna on July 5, 1836. After they arrived in Liberia, Tolbert penned a letter to his former owner, Ben Major: "Dear Sir, We have all landed on the shores of Africa and got into our houses.... None of us have been taken with the fever yet."
Drawing on extensive research and fifteen years' worth of surviving letters, author Susan E. Lindsey illuminates the trials and triumphs of building a new life in Liberia, where settlers were free, but struggled to acclimate themselves to an unfamiliar land, coexist with indigenous groups, and overcome disease and other dangers. Liberty Brought Us Here: The True Story of American Slaves Who Migrated to Liberia explores the motives and attitudes of colonization supporters and those who lived in the colony, offering perspectives beyond the standard narrative that colonization was driven solely by racism or forced exile.
"In recounting the lives of freed slaves who immigrated from Kentucky to Liberia decades before emancipation, Lindsey breathes life into a poignant, provocative, and largely forgotten tale. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, Liberty Brought Us Here is both a significant contribution to the historical record and a pleasure to read." -- Alan Huffman, author of Mississippi in Africa: The Saga of the Slaves of Prospect Hill Plantation and Their Legacy in Liberia Today
"Based on extensive archival research, Liberty Brought Us Here is an engaging, nuanced, and imaginative work that merits a prominent place in the scholarship on the American Colonization Society and Liberia." -- Eric Burin, editor of Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent, and Patriotism in Twenty-First-Century America
"Lindsey has ambitiously and carefully told the other side of Liberia's story: the connection or disconnection of Americo-Liberians to America, their hope of finding a truly free and peaceful land, the contradictions of Liberia's history as the unwanted 'uncolonized colony,' and Americo-Liberians' struggle to be liberated while perpetuating the same slave culture that had kept them in bondage in America for centuries. An urgently necessary book that should be on the shelf in every library." -- Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, author of Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems
"At a time when Liberia is seeking to redefine itself in the aftermath of civil war, Lindsey takes us back to America's overwhelming role in the founding of the Liberian state, weaving together the stories of two migrations of people searching for better lives: black Kentuckians to Liberia, and white, formerly slaveholding Kentuckians to frontier Illinois." -- D. Elwood Dunn, author of Liberia and the United States during the Cold War: Limits of Reciprocity
"Lindsey has done an outstanding job of weaving together rich, original sources with archival research in multiple relevant document repositories. Relying on germane scholarly writings covering the American Colonization Society's early settlements, Lindsey deftly and authentically fills gaps in the original documents and other scholarly publications. A good read about a Liberian settler family's struggles in the mid-nineteenth century." -- Verlon Stone, former special advisor, Indiana University Liberian Collections