December 10, 1815

Paul Cuffe Sails for Sierra Leone


On this day in 1815, Paul Cuffe of Westport sailed for the west coast of Africa with 38 black emigrants and a cargo of goods on board his vessel. The goal was for the families to begin a new life in Sierra Leone, to bring Christianity to Africans, and to create trade between Africa and the U.S. — one that did not involve trafficking in human beings. As a successful ship captain, ship owner, and merchant, Cuffe was among the most respected Black men in the country. His venture was the first Black-initiated "back to Africa" effort in the U.S. When white men — with mixed motives — began to advocate sending free African Americans to Africa just a few years later, most Black men and women denounced their efforts at "colonization."

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