African recolonization: Bold idea, dim design

Evidence that’s there’s nothing new under the sun, particularly when it comes to bad behavior, can be found by perusing old newspapers.

Take this sad tale from the Oct. 28, 1896, edition of the Newberry (SC) Observer:

A “well-to-do colored farmer” named Pressley Cromer, living in Newberry, “came into possession of some lurid literature” put out by the Migration Society, which evidently spoke of the joys of life back in Africa, according to the publication.

Apparently buoyed by the knowledge that the society’s president was Bishop Henry McNeal Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Cromer sold his 50-acre farm, house, three mules, cow and calf, 20 hogs, 500 bushels of corn, 225 gallons of molasses, 35 bales of cottonseed and all his furniture.

He then booked passage to Liberia for himself, his wife, his four children, his mother and father, his two brothers and their wives. The price: $412 – no paltry sum in the late 18th century.

Liberia is unusual among African nations because beginning in the early 1800s, the region was colonized by freed American slaves through the help of such organizations as the American Colonization Society, a private entity that believed ex-slaves would have greater freedom and equality in Africa.

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