Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It

James Ciment, Author
James Ciment. Hill and Wang, $29.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8090-9542-1
Reviewed on: 05/13/2013
Release date: 08/13/2013
Paperback - 296 pages - 978-0-8090-2695-1
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-4688-9
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Few in the U.S. could identify Liberia on a map, but the two nations’ histories are inextricably intertwined. Founded in 1822 as a colony for African-Americans returning to Africa, Liberia was created in the image of the U.S., and the former slaves and free blacks who moved there, driven by idealism or by poverty, “endeavored to recreate the only social and political order they knew, that of the antebellum South—with themselves as the master class.” Ciment (Atlas of African-American History) paints a vivid picture of the challenges faced by the settlers: although supported by the U.S., formal recognition of their independence was delayed by nearly two decades due to American diplomatic society’s refusal to host a black ambassador. Riven by troubled relations with the native population and familiar racial baggage—natives railed against “a small, light-skinned elite work[ing] against the will of the black masses”—the settlers nevertheless resisted foreign invasion and maintained control of the country for over 130 years, before a bloody coup ushered in decades of violence. Enlivened by profiles of some of the early settlers, this is an engaging and accessible account whose only shortcoming is its failure to discuss the implications of Nobel Peace Prize–winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s election to the presidency in 2011. (Aug. 13)
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