Thinking through the Counter-Colony: Chief Sam and the Logistics of African American Migration to Ghana, 1912-1917

CGS Brown Bag Lecture Series
Nov 14, 2018
12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
25 Burrowes

Ebony Coletu, Penn State

In this talk, Coletu will share the arc of a little-known back-to-Africa movement launched in 1912 by Chief Alfred Sam, ending around 1917. Chief Alfred Sam was an Akyem merchant from the Gold Coast who advertised land for African Americans to cultivate and develop factories in today’s Ghana. The key question surrounding this movement, which quietly inspired Marcus Garvey, was what interest an African businessman and small village chief would have in African American return? The offer of repatriation managed through a corporate form (selling stocks in lieu of seats on the ship, or land), enabled a different mode of thinking about collective ownership, speculation, and the terms in which African American contributions would be valued in West Africa. This movement was subject to the scrutiny of the Gold Coast Indigenous Rights Protection Society, and later received approval and advocacy for a counter-colony against the aggressive efforts of colonial officials to dispossess the movement of their ship and cash resources on the eve of World War I. The talk will focus on Sam’s motivation and vision for an alternative approach to settlement and trade as British officials began to strengthen the rights of access to European merchants who would dominate West African commerce. Africans by turn, also transformed their approach to trade and developed a pan-African imagination that imagined African Americans as a different kind of human resource for reclaiming a foothold in the transnational economy. This project allows exploration of African American return both within and beyond the framework of trade and emphasizes the importance rather than the novelty of an African-led African American remigration movement.

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