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Title page for ETD etd-12072018-193623

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Mosher, Shawn Joseph
URN etd-12072018-193623
Title Competing Ideals: How Commerce, Christianity, and Civilization Shaped Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Liberia
Degree PhD
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
R. J. M. Blackett Committee Chair
Dennis Dickerson Committee Member
Lucius Outlaw Committee Member
Moses Ochonu Committee Member
  • Liberia
  • emigration
  • United States
  • Africa
  • colonialism
Date of Defense 2018-12-05
Availability unrestricted
The establishment of Liberia as a nation in 1847 was one of the first opportunities for black Americans to rule themselves. This dissertation studies how African American emigrants worked to become a national people and the strategies they used to bind themselves together. It argues that they utilized commerce, Christianity, and the idea of a common civilization in order to craft a shared vision for the future. Yet they struggled to find unity of purpose, among themselves and with the neighboring African natives. In the realms of business, government, Christian missions, and higher education, Liberians repeatedly advantaged themselves, often at the expense of other communities. Their missteps were driven largely by the need for economic survival, competition from geopolitical rivals, and idealized notions of black uplift and nationality. At times oblivious to their own cultural biases, Liberians created deep societal divisions that hindered the nation in its attempts to achieve widespread unity in the nineteenth century.
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