Against Wind and Tide

The African American Struggle Against the Colonization Movement

By Ousmane K. Power-Greene

From The NYU Press

304 pp / 2014

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Against Wind and Tide tells the story of African American’s battle against the American Colonization Society (ACS), founded in 1816 with the intention to return free blacks to its colony Liberia. Although ACS members considered free black colonization in Africa a benevolent enterprise, most black leaders rejected the ACS, fearing that the organization sought forced removal. As Ousmane K. Power-Greene’s story shows, these African American anticolonizationists did not believe Liberia would ever be a true “black American homeland.”

In this study of anticolonization agitation, Power-Greene draws on newspapers, meeting minutes, and letters to explore the concerted effort on the part of nineteenth century black activists, community leaders, and spokespersons to challenge the American Colonization Society’s attempt to make colonization of free blacks federal policy. The ACS insisted the plan embodied empowerment. The United States, they argued, would never accept free blacks as citizens, and the only solution to the status of free blacks was to create an autonomous nation that would fundamentally reject racism at its core. But the activists and reformers on the opposite side believed that the colonization movement was itself deeply racist and in fact one of the greatest obstacles for African Americans to gain citizenship in the United States.

Power-Greene synthesizes debates about colonization and emigration, situating this complex and enduring issue into an ever broader conversation about nation building and identity formation in the Atlantic world.

Reviews & Quotes

"Against Wind and Tide probes more deeply into the history of black opposition to the American Colonization Society’s program of removal than any previous work. Power-Greene skillfully weaves together a number of important historical strands of the antebellum period that illuminate just how central the debate over Liberian colonization was in relationship to African American identity and presence in the United States. Significantly, he pays close attention to the place of Haiti as an alternative site for African American migration and identity formation, detailing how crucial the black republic was to any discussion of Afro-Atlantic destiny."
— Claude Clegg, Indiana University

"Ousmane Power-Greene’s book is an important and much-needed corrective to the recent boom in the history of the American colonization movement. In recapitulating the long genealogy of African American opposition to colonization and carefully distinguishing colonization from independent black emigration and nationalist efforts, he has made an indispensable contribution to the early history of the United States as well as the international efforts of black people to stem the tide of slavery and racism in the western world."
— Manisha Sinha, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

About Ousmane K. Power-Greene

Ousmane K. Power-Greene is Assistant Professor of History at Clark University (MA).

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"The Early American Places series is an exciting development in scholarly publishing, one that will highlight the most important part of the study of history: the local and particular dimensions of global issues and trends. This is where the rubber meets the road, where ordinary people's lives help to make, and are made by, the bustling wider world in which they live. Early American Places is an original series, and it will publish important scholarship."

— Stephanie M. H. Camp, University of Washington