A living book?

It’s not often that historians get a chance to revisit their published work. Only the most successful books merit a second edition and a chance to revise and expand the original scholarship. The rest of us have to live with what we wrote. We can be excused for missing brand new articles and books, but it’s frustrating to find older materials after publication that might have filled some gap in the book.

As an experiment, I am starting a “living bibliography” for my first book, Cotton and Race across the Atlantic. My goal is to document sources that have been published since the book was completed, that were previously unavailable, or that I simply didn’t find.

The first entry is a 1975 article on sesame seed production among the Tiv in southeastern Nigeria. I came across this article while researching vegetable oils, and was surprised to see that the article actually spent several pages discussing colonial cotton projects. I am almost 100% sure I have read this article before, but it never made its way into my bibliography and I did not use the archival sources the author reproduces. Oops.

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American exodus, viewed from Africa

In Cotton and Race across the AtlanticI wrote about several attempts to transplant African Americans to Africa. The idea of emigration is an old one, dating a century beyond the well-known antics of Marcus Garvey and his “back to Africa” movement. Historians have written a lot about African American emigration movements, but relatively little is known about how Africans viewed these movements.

A fragmentary letter held by Ghana’s Public Records and Archives Administration in Accra hints that some Africans were excited by the prospect of building ties with the African diaspora in America. On June 17, 1912, Christian Jacobson wrote to Sir Emmanuel Mate Kole, the Konor (king) of Krobo (southeastern Ghana today) about one emigration proposal:

“The Negroes in America had formed a trade relation now between the West Africa, and they are opening a factory there – They desire our Brothers or people in Africa also to go in [with?] them Company and reap [missing text] profit from our own Soil [missing].”

I don’t know anything abut Christian Jacobson, but his diction suggests that he was Ghanaian, rather than Danish. Jacobson tried to get Mate Kole to buy 25 shares of this American company. He insisted this as a legitimate business: “They have go their own Steamers and everything for the business and there is no fear of doing anything with them.”

I don’t know if Mate Kole invested or not, but he would have been wise to stay away. The company in question was the Akim Trading Company, the brainchild of “Chief Sam.” Chief Sam duped hundreds of African Americans into buying shares in his company. A few dozen set sail for Ghana with Chief Sam in 1914, but found that the “Chief” had no power to give free land to American settlers as he had promised.

Read more about Garveyism and emigration (and see a photo of Chief Sam) here: http://wyatt.elasticbeanstalk.com/mep/MG/xml/mg080003.html

Sources:

Christian Jacobson to Mate Kole, 7 June 1912, SC 17/192, PRAAD-Accra.

Semhar Negasa, “Chief Alfred Sam,” blackpast.org