Samuel Hopkins of Rhode Island and a disciple of the leader of the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), approached a fellow clergyman and a future president of Yale University, Ezra Stiles, about organizing a batch of black converts for repatriation to Africa as the bridgehead of a Christianization errand into the continent. Hopkins in 1775 appealed to John Adams (1735-1826), the future president of the United States, for a contribution to the cause of Christian colonization. By the outbreak of the war in 1776 over $500 had been raised through private donations, but the war interrupted the plans. Hopkins returned to the idea even before the war was formally concluded in 1783, and later in 1794 under the aegis of the African Society of Providence James McKenzie was sent to the West African coast to prospect for a colony
The wave of conversion spurred by the First Great Awakening had affected large numbers of American blacks who were subsequently caught up in the American Revolution, and afterwards these blacks, reformed and tempered, crossed the ocean back to Africa as new emissaries of the gospel. At the conclusion of the war, black loyalist troops were demobilized under British command and transported to Canada in 1783. Later, in January, 1792, a freedom Armada of just under 1,200 of these blacks, disillusioned with life in Canada, set sail from Nova Scotia. They arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in March of the same year, to commence a new phase in Africa's experiment with Christianity and with freedom from slavery. The original colony of free London blacks, settled in 1787 in this 'Province of Freedom', had from numerous causes disintegrated beyond being retrievable, and the cause of the new Christian experiment in Africa appeared to have all but foundered. At this point came the new impetus from the New World, with a gallant British parliament backing the enterprise by paying the full cost of repatriation to the tune of £9,600. Perhaps this was simply Britain's ironic way of repaying the Americans for their disloyalty, as George Washington had reason to suspect.
At any rate, here they were, these blacks originally uprooted from their homes, bound in chains, crammed in slave ships and hauled across the ocean, returning from the horrors of enslavement and racial castigation to the source of their misfortune. They came with a new and different message: liberation for captives, release for prisoners, time of favour for outcasts, and good news for the poor.
Old World missions had targeted kings, chiefs, princes and the other eminences of the land as the principal candidates for conversion, but the kings and chiefs and their circle of officials had sooner or later repudiated Christianity, if they had adopted it, reverting instead to the exploitative ways of the old politics that sanctioned slavery and the slave trade. Now, New World ideas
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