U.S.A./Liberia / 1953
Tolson wrote this modernist epic to honor the centennial of Liberia's founding. The nation of Liberia was established in 1822 as a colony for free African-Americans to return to a kind of generic African "homeland." Between 1822 and 1861, over 15,000 free Black Americans and over 3,000 Afro-Caribbeans migrated to Liberia. But it wasn't as sweet as it sounds. During slavery, free Black folks were seen as a major issue. So pro-slavery whites encouraged Liberia's creation and migration efforts to "solve" the "free Blacks problem." Little did they know, there were already hella tribes and folks already living there. Lots of crazy drama and cultural/ class-based elitism ensued. Sigh. Liberia is one of the few African countries that was not colonized by Europe. Interestingly, Tolson (who also wrote the classic poem, "Dark Symphony"  and was the source material for the film, "The Great Debaters") served as the Poet Laureate of Liberia in 1947. I've always wanted to visit Liberia.