Paul Cuffee was a free black man who became well known for instituting the first “Back to Africa Movement.“He was born in Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts, around 1759 (The exact year of his birth is unknown.).
In 1780, while Mr. Cuffee was still in his 20’s, he led a group of free blacks to petition the Massachusetts government. Their demand was to either give African American and Native American people there voting rights or cease taxing them.
Even though the petition failed, it still paved the way for a new constitution that arrived in 1783, which granted certain levels of equality to Massachusetts black citizens. After serving as a Whaling Ship Captain for a while, he would eventually become a Shipowner.
By 1811, he was considered the wealthiest Black man in America and the biggest employer of free melanated people. Unhappy with the treatment of enslaved blacks as well as free blacks in the United States, he came up with a plan: Migrate all free blacks back to Africa.
On January 2nd, 1811, he launched his first expedition to Sierra Leone, sailing with an all African American crew to Freetown. While in Sierra Leone he helped create “The Friendly Society of Sierra Leone,” a trading organization ran by African American’s who had returned to West Africa.
The goal of the organization was to migrate as many free blacks back to Africa as possible. In 1815, Cuffee successfully migrated 38 free Black Americans to Sierra Leone. Once there, they were clever enough to secure new homes and were integrated into the community. Even though Mr. Cuffee ultimately died before he could see his dream manifest, his life and contributions to the melanated community should be marveled for generations to come.