Who supported the African colonization movement and settlement in Liberia in the 19th century and why? According to a new book by historian Marie Tyler-McGraw, no state was more involved than Virginia, where black Virginians sustained the early impetus for colonization and made up a majority of the emigrants who went to Liberia, and white Virginians provided much of the political and organizational leadership.
Tyler-McGraw will present her arguments on the national and international significance of Virginia’s investment in Liberian colonization, discuss her research and sign her book, “An African Republic: Black and White Virginians in the Making of Liberia,” at noon on Monday, Dec. 10
, in the West Dining Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Part of the Books and Beyond series organized by the Center for the Book, the event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The program is co-sponsored by the Library’s Digital Reference Team in the Office of the Director for Public Services Collections, which sponsored a September 2007 presentation for staff on the “Virginia Emigrants to Liberia” Web site. The site, currently under construction by the Virginia Center for Digital History, is sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the home of the Virginia Center for the Book.
The records of the American Colonization Society, a major resource for the book, are in the Library’s Manuscript Division. Other Library of Congress offices and collections, including the Rare Book and Special Collections Division and the American Folklife Center, were also central to Tyler-McGraw’s research.
In “An African Republic,” Tyler-McGraw traces the parallel tracks of black and white Virginians’ interests in African colonization, from Revolutionary-era efforts at emancipation to African-American churches’ concern for African missions. In her book, she carefully examines the tensions between racial identities, domestic visions and republican citizenship in Virginia and Liberia.
From material gathered in the research, especially the ships’ lists in the American Colonization Society records, Tyler-McGraw and her colleague Deborah Lee compiled a database of almost 3,700 Virginia emigrants to Liberia. The ships’ lists included ages, occupations, skills, literacy level, family members, place of origin, ships on which they traveled and time of arrival in Liberia. The Web site will also offer contextual essays on the meaning of African colonization and the emigrant experience.
A graduate of the American Civilization program at The George Washington University, Tyler-McGraw is an independent public historian who has worked for Virginia’s Valentine/Richmond History Center, the National Park Service and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has published widely on African-American topics and is the author of “At the Falls: Richmond, Virginia and Its People” (University of North Carolina Press, 1994).
The Center for the Book was created by law in 1977 to use the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading. For information about its program, future events, publications and national partnership networks, visit www.loc.gov/cfbook/