"Americo-African", not in OED

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Oct 3 04:18:30 UTC 2011

Items (4) and (6) below are the clearest that "Americo-African" did
sometimes (if not always) mean "American of African descent" in the
period 1828 to 1839.

1)  1828 --

Between Bulama and Liberia, is the colony of Sierra Leone, which the
utter impossibility of sustaining, unless at a great expense of life,
will ultimately cause the British to abandon---and which, even if it
is not abandoned, must become a part of the Americo-African nation,
as the increasing settlements of Liberia enclose and embrace it.

In The Eleventh Annual Report of the American Society for Colonizing
the Free People of Colour of the United States (Georgeton, D.C.:
James C Dunn, 1828), p. 10.

2)  1828 --

The germ of an Americo-African empire has been planted; and though
our Society should be dissolved to-morrow, it will flourish and
expand until it overshadows a continent.

In The African Repository and Colonial Journal, vol. 4 (May, 1828), p. 76.

3)  1829 --

They are already beginning to anticipate the colonizing of the whole
south-western coast of the African continent, and thus laying the
foundation of an Americo-African empire.

In The Modern Traveller. A Popular Description ... . Africa [by
Josiah Conder], Vol. III (London: James Duncan, 1829), p. 240
(article "Colony of Liberia").

4)  1831 --

Americo-African population of Liberia, 2,000. Native Africans, who
have abolished their ancient government, and become citizens of the
colony, 10,000. Cost of establishing the colony, $80,000. In 1829 the
colonists exported $70,000 worth of produce.

In The New-York Annual Register for the Year of Our Lord 1831, By
Edwin Williams (New-York: Jonathan Leavitt and Collins & Hannay,
1831), p. 190 (Article on the American Colonization Society).

Surely "Americo-African" here is "Americans of African descent",
since they are counted separately from "native Africans, citizens of
the colony".  (My reading so far says there were virtually no whites
in Liberia through 1825; I will continue following the
chronology.)  I think this supports the notion that
"American-African" and "African-American" also sometimes had the same
meaning by this time.

5)  1832 --

We believe, sirs, that the people of color in the United States will
never be prevailed over to abandon the land of their birth, and every
thing vernacular with them---to forego many advantages which they now
possess, and many more which they have in prospect, for the
imaginary, or if real, the fleeting and short-lived honors held out
to them by our " Americo-African empire." Why should we exchange a
temperate and salubrious climate, adapted to our constitutions as
Americans, for one, to us, fraught with disease and death?

In Thoughts on African Colonization: or an Impartial Exhibition of
the Doctrines, Principles and purposes of the American Colonization
Society ..., by William Lloyd Garrison (Boston: Garrison and Knapp,
1832), Part II, p. 52 [this is second pagination].

6)  1839 --

And the alternatives may at last be the dissolution of the union, the
retention of slavery, or the utter extermination of the
Americo-African race, ...

In The Southern Literary Messenger, Devoted to Every Department of
Literature and the Fine Arts (Richmond: Thos. W. White), vol. 5., no.
6 (June, 1839), p. 382, col. 1.

An "Americo-African race" can't be "white Americans".

I did not look later than 1839, except to see that there were about
505 results in GBooks from 1840 on; and a few are:
a) 1881 has "In 1847, the date of the organization of the Republic,
the Americo-African population was 5000, and the number of aborigines
occupying their territory 100000. In 1856, nine years after, the
Americo- Africans numbered 8000 and the ...";
b) 1888 has "Of the Americo-African children ...".
c) 1892 has "and the Americo- African actually waits expecting that
help from the ...";
d) "Hence, the phrase, Americo- African first used by Latrobe to
describe the first group of African Americans sent to West Africa by
the ACS was replaced by the term Americo- Liberian by the settler
leaders in Liberia and Maryland in Liberia to describe them."  In
African American Settlements in West Africa, by Amos Jones Beyan
(2005), p. 116.  [There is a footnote for this; perhaps it sources
Latrobe.  The first group of African Americans was sent in 1818,
although its settlement did not survive; the next was sent in 1820.]


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