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The Elizabeth Sails from New York for West Africa 6 February 1820

By February 6, 2014

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The American Colonization Society (its full name was the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States) arranged for its first wave of colonizers to head for what is now Liberia in 1820. Along with the 86 ex-slaves (of whom only a third or so were adult men) were three white ACS agents (the membership of the ACS was predominantly white, and many came from the Southern states, hoping to induce freed slaves to emigrate to Africa).

The Elizabeth was accompanied on its voyage to Africa by an American sloop, the USS Cyane. Stopping first at Sierra Leone, they then sailed south to what is now the coast of Liberia and built a settlement. They were unsuccessful in convincing the local chiefs to part with land, and opted instead to settle the uninhabited Scherbo Island.

Amongst the agricultural supplies they brought were 100 muskets and two cannon, to be used to pacify the locals. Within the month 22 of the African American ex-slaves and all the three white ACS agents were dead of yellow fever. The remainder returned to Sierra Leone, to await the arrival of a further wave of colonizers sent by the ACS (which arrived a year later).

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