February 6, 1820
'Mayflower of Liberia' Sets Sail from N.Y.C.
On this date, 86 free blacks sailed out of New York Harbor aboard the ship Elizabeth, bound for Sierra Leona on the west coast of Africa. The journey was organized by the American Colonization Society and initiated the first coordinated attempt to help black Americans return to Africa.
Four years later, the colony where they settled was renamed Liberia, and in popular lore the Elizabeth became known as the "Mayflower of Liberia." (The place where they settled, originally called Christopolis, was renamed Monrovia in honor of President James Monroe. Today, Monrovia is the capital of the Liberia -- the only foreign capital named for a U.S. president.)
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