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Journal Article

A Quantitative Analysis of Liberian Colonization from 1820 to 1843 with Special Reference to Mortality

Tom W. Shick
The Journal of African History
Vol. 12, No. 1 (1971), pp. 45-59
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/180566
Page Count: 15
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A Quantitative Analysis of Liberian Colonization from 1820 to 1843 with Special Reference to Mortality
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Abstract

It is well known that during the eighteenth century and most of the nineteenth century the problem of mortality limited the European presence in West Africa. Disease and death in appalling proportions plagued whites who settled along the coast. Phrases such as 'the white man's grave' popularized theories concerning survival in West Africa that were based mainly on race. The belief that black people by virtue of their race would fare better than whites in Africa affected certain historical events. Hence religious groups began to train blacks in the Caribbean for missionary work and then sent them to Africa, while other groups such as the American Colonization Society encouraged black people to emigrate back to Africa. The present study is a quantitative examination of the black population that emigrated to Liberia through the American Colonization Society from 1820 to 1843. Particular attention is given to their mortality experience. Although a total of 4,571 emigrants arrived in Liberia during the 1820 to 1843 period, by the year 1843 only 1,819 emigrants were still living in the settlements. The overwhelming reason for the Liberian population decline, despite constant additions throughout the period, was a high death rate after arrival in Liberia. By examining the various characteristics of the population such as age, sex, place of origin, place of arrival and the like, a clearer picture of mortality in West Africa emerges. A picture which seems to have little relationship to race per se, but rather to the ways in which disease environments in isolated areas affect incoming populations.

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