July 24, 1878 ~ The Liberian Exodus
The withdraw of federal troops and the return of the Democratic Party to power in South Carolina in 1876 raised anxiety among African-Americans and an interest in the possibility of emigration to Africa.
The black exodus movement gained steam following the 1876 elections and would become one of the biggest events in African-American history.
Black leaders in South Carolina formed a Joint Stock Steamship Company to recruit as many as 300 people to emigrate to Africa.
Blacks from all over the U.S. began arriving in Charleston in January 1878 with hopes of gaining passage to Liberia off the west coast of Africa.
The company then purchased a bark called the Azor, which arrived in Charleston in March.
The Azor is most famously known for her maiden voyage when she carried 260 African American emigrants from Charleston to Monrovia, Liberia for resettlement.
The Azor set sail on April 21 for a voyage that would last 42 days.
The trip was not easy. Twenty-three of the emigrants died before they reached Africa. The water supply gave out shortly before arrival; the food supply was of poor quality and was consumed entirely on the journey. There was also no physician was on board.
But the emigrants made it to Liberia and set to work building a new society.
As for the Bark Azor, she ended her maiden voyage to Africa on July 24th landing once again in Charleston.
The Liberian Exodus Company announced a second voyage in early 1879.
However, due to the company’s financial mismanagement, reports of the fatalities on the first voyage, and reports of the miserable conditions of the emigrants in Liberia, no second voyage ever took place.
Success did come for many of the emigrants who stayed, albeit slowly.
By 1890, the Azor’s passengers were well represented among Liberia’s most prominent citizens and the offspring of these emigrants remain an important part of the Liberian culture.
Music: Amazing Grace Medley on Violin
Taryn Harbridge ~ @tarynharbridge
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