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Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

The Mortality Cost of Colonizing Liberia in the Nineteenth Century

In the early nineteenth century, thousands of emancipated and freeborn blacks from the United States returned to Africa to colonize the area now known as Liberia. In this, the first systematic study of the demographic impact of this move on the migrants, Antonio McDaniel finds that the health of migrant populations depends on the adaptability of the individuals in the group, not on their race.

McDaniel compares the mortality rates of the emigrants to those of other migrants to tropical areas. He finds that, contrary to popular belief, black immigrants during this period died at unprecedented rates. Moreover, he shows that though the emigrant’s mortality levels were exceptionally high, their mortality patterns were consistent with those of other populations.

McDaniel concludes that the greater the variance between the environment left and the environment entered, the higher the probability of contracting a new disease, and, in some cases, of death from these diseases. Additionally, a migrant’s health can be affected by dietary changes, differences in local pathogens, inappropriate immunities, and increased risk of accidents due to unfamiliar surroundings.

213 pages | 3 maps, 17 line drawings, 36 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1994

Population and Development Series

Black Studies

Economics and Business: Economics--Development, Growth, Planning

History: African History, American History

Sociology: General Sociology

Table of Contents

Figures and Maps
I: Background to the Colonization of Liberia
1: Colonization and Mortality
2: The Return to Sierra Leone
II: Colonization and Mortality in Early Nineteenth-Century Liberia
3: Migration and Colonization in Liberia
4: Mortality of the Liberian Immigrant Population
5: An Event History Analysis of Mortality in Liberia
III: Liberian Mortality: Another Dimension of the African Diaspora
6: Liberian Mortality in Comparative Perspective
7: Epilogue
Appendix A: Data and Methods
Appendix B: Committee Report on the "Report on the Medical Statistics of the Colony by Dr. Henderson"
Appendix C: Additional Tables

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