Title page for ETD etd-05082012-115854

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author West, Laura Elizabeth
URN etd-05082012-115854
Title “The Negro Experiment”: Black Modernity and Liberia, 1883-1910
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Heaton, Matthew Committee Chair
Hidalgo, Dennis R. Committee Member
Mollin, Marian B. Committee Member
Shadle, Brett L. Committee Member
  • identity
  • Africa
  • imperialism
  • Black Modernity
  • Liberia
Date of Defense 2012-04-25
Availability unrestricted
This thesis explores the notion of “black modernity” in the context of the Liberia at the turn of the twentieth century. Despite Liberia’s recognition by the international community as a sovereign nation, Liberia fell subject to the imperial ploys of the European powers in the Scramble for Africa. Americo-Liberians, the governing elite of Liberia, toiled to preserve Liberia’s status as an autonomous nation and the only self-governed black republic in Africa. This thesis examines the complexities of Liberia’s sovereignty crisis, highlighting the ways in which Americo-Liberians used methods of “modernity” for their own purposes. Using Liberia as a case study, this thesis argues that the concept of “black modernity” hinges on contextual factors such as the plight of the people, pending circumstances, power structures, and understanding of self in relation to these variables. Americo-Liberians, unlike most black people at this time, were protected from race-based oppression by the state. Thus, when Liberia’s sovereignty was in jeopardy, Americo-Liberians diligently fought to ensure that the Republic of Liberia maintained its sovereignty by using methods of colonialism and diplomacy. While these methods mirrored those of the European imperialists, Americo-Liberians employed these methods to preserve Liberia and, accordingly, challenge the prevailing notions of black inferiority.
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