Early American Places


NYU PressNYU Press

Against Wind and Tide:

The African American Struggle against the Colonization Movement

by Ousmane K. Power-Greene

304 pages

ISBN: 9781479823178



Well-written and cogently argued, Against Wind and Tide is a must-read for scholars interested in the African Colonization Movement.
— American Historical Review

Against Wind and Tide tells the story of African American’s battle against the American Colonization Society (ACS), founded in 1816 with the intention to return free blacks to its colony Liberia. Although ACS members considered free black colonization in Africa a benevolent enterprise, most black leaders rejected the ACS, fearing that the organization sought forced removal. As Ousmane K. Power-Greene’s story shows, these African American anticolonizationists did not believe Liberia would ever be a true “black American homeland."

In this study of anticolonization agitation, Power-Greene draws on newspapers, meeting minutes, and letters to explore the concerted effort on the part of nineteenth century black activists, community leaders, and spokespersons to challenge the American Colonization Society’s attempt to make colonization of free blacks federal policy. The ACS insisted the plan embodied empowerment. The United States, they argued, would never accept free blacks as citizens, and the only solution to the status of free blacks was to create an autonomous nation that would fundamentally reject racism at its core. But the activists and reformers on the opposite side believed that the colonization movement was itself deeply racist and in fact one of the greatest obstacles for African Americans to gain citizenship in the United States.

Power-Greene synthesizes debates about colonization and emigration, situating this complex and enduring issue into an ever broader conversation about nation building and identity formation in the Atlantic world. 

About the Author

Ousmane K. Power-Greene is Assistant Professor of History at Clark University (MA).

Power-Greene does an admirable job of synthesizing this new scholarship while emphasizing the role and agency of black activists.
— The North Carolina Historical Review
Against Wind and Tide is a fine contribution to the story of African colonization movements in early American history.
— The Journal of American History
This well-crafted monograph fleshes out our understanding of the varied ways by which northern free blacks worked to discredit, destroy, sidestep, or even, in some cases, exploit ACS and its wealthy and distinguished white supporters as the organization gained popularity in the North and Midwest during the 1840s and 1850s.
— Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Power-Greene’s Against Wind and Tide is successful in engaging the historical literature on emigration and colonization and in revealing the schemes mounted by racist colonizationists and the black and white resistance to the movement.
— Journal of African American History
Ousmane Power-Greene’s book is an important and much-needed corrective to the recent boom in the history of the American colonization movement. In recapitulating the long genealogy of African American opposition to colonization and carefully distinguishing colonization from independent black emigration and nationalist efforts, he has made an indispensable contribution to the early history of the United States as well as the international efforts of black people to stem the tide of slavery and racism in the western world.
— Manisha Sinha, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Against Wind and Tide probes more deeply into the history of black opposition to the American Colonization Society’s program of removal than any previous work. Power-Greene skillfully weaves together a number of important historical strands of the antebellum period that illuminate just how central the debate over Liberian colonization was in relationship to African American identity and presence in the United States. Significantly, he pays close attention to the place of Haiti as an alternative site for African American migration and identity formation, detailing how crucial the black republic was to any discussion of Afro-Atlantic destiny.
— Claude Clegg, Indiana University