American Racial Politics and A Little Town Called Arthington

Author: Pat Mitchell-Keita-Doe


Tilden Middle School

Year: 2012

Seminar: American Racial Politics

Grade Level: 7-9

Keywords: Africa, Arthington, History, racial politics

School Subject(s): African American History, American History, Global History, History, Social Studies

This unit explores why many African Americans chose to leave the United States after the Civil War, including to a little town in Liberia called Arthington. For today’s African American students, the connections to Africa have for the most part, been lost. They cannot imagine why anyone would want to live in such a “poor place”. This is partly because the media has done such a fine job presenting Africa as a place of constant strife, poverty and ignorance. My students are not familiar with the history of many Blacks who left here because they saw no opportunity to not only be free but to fully participate in the processes that shape their lives and the lives of their future generations.

Here is a way that students can see that for well over one hundred years Black Folk have been migrating from America to Africa. I want them to examine the factors that drove people away from a country that is perceived to be the best country in the world in which to live and work, to a different place, a place where they felt that in order to enjoy the benefits of liberty, they had to leave America. My students will analyze the politics/laws of the time, which provided a backdrop against the dreams of citizenship and the rights conferred on the freed slaves, and the freemen and freewomen of the time. I want them to examine just how fragile freedom was, and how easily one could be manumitted and then immediately indentured, thereby prolonging the period of servitude. I want my students to be able to draw comparisons to their lives and the political backdrop of today with the lives of the Arthington families, and the political backdrop at the conclusion of the Civil War.

Download Unit: TIP-Mitchell-Keita-Doe-FINAL.pdf

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