American Colonization Society

Last updated

Robert Finley founded the American Colonization Society. Finley robert.gif
Robert Finley founded the American Colonization Society.

American Colonization Society (ACS), originally known as the Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color of America, was founded in 1816 by Robert Finley to encourage and support the migration of free African Americans to the continent of Africa.


There were several factors that led to the establishment of the American Colonization Society. The number of free people of color grew steadily following the American Revolutionary War, from 60,000 in 1790 to 300,000 by 1830. [1] :260 Consequently, slaveowners grew increasingly concerned that free blacks might encourage or help their slaves to escape or rebel. In addition, most white Americans saw African Americans as racially inferior and felt that "amalgamation," or integration, of African Americans with white American culture was impossible and undesirable. This reinforced the notion that African Americans should be relocated to somewhere they could live free of prejudice, where they could be citizens.

The African-American community and abolitionist movement overwhelmingly opposed the project. In most cases, African Americans' families had lived in the United States for generations, and their prevailing sentiment was that they were no more African than white Americans were European. Contrary to stated claims that emigration was voluntary, many African Americans, both free and enslaved, were pressured into emigrating. Indeed, enslavers sometimes manumitted their slaves on condition that the freedmen leave the country immediately. [2] [3]

According to historian Marc Leepson, "Colonization proved to be a giant failure, doing nothing to stem the forces that brought the nation to Civil War." [4] Between 1821 and 1847, only a few thousand African Americans, out of millions in the US, emigrated to what would become Liberia. Close to half of them died from tropical diseases. In addition, the transportation of the emigrants to the African continent, including the provisioning of requisite tools and supplies, proved very expensive.[ citation needed ]

Starting in the 1830s, the Society was met with great hostility from white abolitionists, led by Gerrit Smith, who had supported the Society financially, and Wm. Lloyd Garrison, author of Thoughts on African Colonization (1832), in which he proclaimed the Society a fraud. According to Garrison and his many followers, the Society was not a solution to the problem of American slavery—it actually was helping, and was intended to help, to preserve it. [5]


Growth of slavery in the South

After the invention of the cotton gin in the 1790s, the growth and export of cotton became a highly profitable business. Central to the business was the setting up of plantations, staffed by enslaved laborers. Due to the increased demand, imports of African slaves grew until legal importation was barred in 1808, after which time Maryland and Virginia openly bred slaves, "producing" children for sale "South", through brokers such as Franklin and Armfield, to plantation owners. This resulted in the forcible relocation of about one million enslaved people to the Deep South, The Africans and African Americans became well established and had children, and the total number of the enslaved reached four million by the mid-19th century. [6]

Growth in the number of free blacks

Due in part to manumission efforts sparked by revolutionary ideals, Protestant preachers, and the abolitionist movement, there was an expansion in the number of free blacks, many of them born free. Even in the North, where slavery was being abolished, discrimination against free blacks was rampant and often legal. Few states extended citizenship rights to free blacks prior to the 1860s and the Federal government, largely controlled by Slave Power, never showed any inclination to challenge the racial status quo. Even in the North, free blacks were often seen as unwelcome immigrants, taking jobs away because they would work for cheap. [7]

Some slave owners decided to support emigration following an aborted slave rebellion headed by Gabriel Prosser in 1800, and a rapid increase in the number of free African Americans in the United States in the first two decades after the Revolutionary War, which they perceived as threatening. Although the ratio of whites to blacks overall was 4:1 between 1790 and 1800, in some Southern counties blacks were the majority. Slaveholders feared that free blacks destabilized their slave society and created a political threat. From 1790 to 1800, the number of free blacks increased from 59,467 to 108,398, and by 1810 there were 186,446 free blacks. [8]

Early colonization in Africa

In 1786, a British organization, the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor, launched its efforts to establish the Sierra Leone Province of Freedom, a colony in West Africa for London's "black poor." This enterprise gained the support of the British government, [9] which also offered relocation to Black Loyalists who had been resettled in Nova Scotia, where they were subject to harsh weather and discrimination from some white Nova Scotians. [10] [11] Jamaica maroons were also deported to the colony, [12] alongside former slaves freed by the Royal Navy after the Atlantic slave trade was abolished by Britain in 1807. [13] [14]

Paul Cuffe

Drawing of Paul Cuffe (1812) Paul Cuffee4.jpg
Drawing of Paul Cuffe (1812)

Paul Cuffe or Cuffee (1759–1817) was a successful Quaker ship owner and activist in Boston. His parents were of Ashanti (African) and Wampanoag (Native American) heritage. He advocated settling freed American slaves in Africa and gained support from the British government, free Black leaders in the United States, and members of Congress to take emigrants to the British colony of Sierra Leone. [15] In 1815, he financed a trip himself. The following year, Cuffe took 38 American blacks to Freetown, Sierra Leone. [16] He died in 1817 before undertaking other voyages. Cuffe laid the groundwork for the American Colonization Society. [17]

Efforts to relocate free blacks other than to Africa

Although little remembered as ultimately nothing came of them, there were a number of other proposals for relocating former slaves to somewhere much closer. One option discussed was settling them in the new, sparsely-populated Western territories acquired with the Louisiana Purchase, or on the Pacific coast: creating a Black reservation, similar to an Indian reservation. Haiti was open to them, and there was an unsuccessful attempt to create an agricultural community of former American slaves on Île-à-Vache, Haiti. Abraham Lincoln's plan was to settle them in what is today Panama (see Linconia). Even Florida Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward proposed, in 1907, sending Blacks to a land the federal government would purchase, there to live permanently, in isolation from whites. [18]

Early history of the ACS


The ACS had its origins in 1816, when Charles Fenton Mercer, a Federalist member of the Virginia General Assembly, discovered accounts of earlier legislative debates on black colonization in the wake of Gabriel Prosser's rebellion. Mercer pushed the state to support the idea. One of his political contacts in Washington City, John Caldwell, in turn contacted the Reverend Robert Finley, his brother-in-law and a Presbyterian minister, who endorsed the plan. [19]

Four early organizers of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States. [20] [7] [21] [22]

On December 21, 1816, the society was officially established at the Davis Hotel in Washington, D.C. Among the Society's supporters were Charles Fenton Mercer (from Virginia), Henry Clay (Kentucky), John Randolph (Virginia), Richard Bland Lee (Virginia), and Bushrod Washington (Virginia). [7] [20] [21] [22] [23] Slaveholders in the Virginia Piedmont region in the 1820s and 1830s comprised many of its most prominent members; slave-owning United States presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison were among its supporters. Madison served as the Society's president in the early 1830s. [24]

At the inaugural meeting of the Society, Reverend Finley suggested that a colony be established in Africa to take free people of color, most of whom had been born free, away from the United States. Finley meant to colonize "(with their consent) the free people of color residing in our country, in Africa, or such other place as Congress may deem most expedient". The organization established branches throughout the United States, mostly in Southern states. It was instrumental in establishing the colony of Liberia. [25]

The ACS was founded by groups otherwise opposed to each other on the issue of slavery. Slaveholders, such as those in the Maryland branch and elsewhere, believed that so-called repatriation was a way to remove free blacks from slave societies and avoid slave rebellions. [7] [lower-alpha 1] Free blacks, many of whom had been in the United States for generations, also encouraged and assisted slaves to escape, and depressing their value. ("Every attempt by the South to aid the Colonization Society, to send free colored people to Africa, enhances the value of the slave left on the soil." [27] :51) The Society appeared to hold contradictory ideas: free blacks should be removed because they could not benefit America; on the other hand, free blacks would prosper and thrive under their own leadership in another land. [28] [lower-alpha 2]

On the other hand, a coalition made up mostly of evangelicals, Quakers, philanthropists, and abolitionists supported abolition of slavery. [7] [26] They wanted slaves to be free and believed blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the United States, since they were not welcome in the South or North. [7] [26] [lower-alpha 3] The two opposed groups found common ground in support of what they called "repatriation". [7]


The presidents of the ACS tended to be Southerners. The first president was Bushrod Washington, the nephew of U.S. President George Washington and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. [22] [34] From 1836 to 1849 the statesman Henry Clay of Kentucky, a planter and slaveholder, was ACS president. John H. B. Latrobe served as president of the ACS from 1853 until his death in 1891. [35]


The colonization project, which had multiple American Colonization Society chapters in every state, had three goals. One was to provide a place for former slaves, freedmen, and their descendants to live, where they would be free and not subject to racism. Another goal was to ensure that the colony had what it needed to succeed, such as fertile soil to grow crops. [36] A third goal was to suppress attempts to engage in the Atlantic slave trade, such as by monitoring ship traffic on the coast. [36] Presbyterian clergyman Lyman Beecher proposed another goal: the Christianization of Africa. [37] [lower-alpha 4]


The Society raised money by selling memberships. [38] The Society's members pressured Congress and the President for support. In 1819, they received $100,000 from Congress, and on February 6, 1820, the first ship, the Elizabeth, sailed from New York for West Africa with three white ACS agents and 88 African-American emigrants aboard. [39] The approaches for selecting people and funding travel to Africa varied by state. [40]

Opposition to colonization

Originally, colonization "had been pushed with diligence and paraded as the cure for the evils of slavery, and its benevolence was assumed on all hands. Everybody of consequence belonged to it." The following summary is from April 1834: [41]

The plan of colonizing free blacks, has been justly considered one of the noblest devices of Christian benevolence and enlightened patriotism, grand in its object, and most happily adapted to enlist the combined influence, and harmonious cooperation, of different classes of society. It reconciles, and brings together some discordant interests, which could not in any other plan be brought to meet in harmony. The Christian and the statesman here act together, and persons having entirely different views from each other in reference to some collateral points connected with the great subject, are moved towards the same point by a diversity of motives. It is a splendid conception, around which are gathered the hopes of the nation, the wishes of the patriot, the prayers of the Christian, and we trust, the approbation of Heaven.

The colonization movement "originated abolitionism", by arousing the free blacks and other opponents of slavery. [42]

Opposition from blacks

From the beginning, "the majority of black Americans regarded the Society [with] enormous disdain." [43] :143 Black activist James Forten immediately rejected the ACS, writing in 1817 that "we have no wish to separate from our present homes for any purpose whatever". [44] As soon as they heard about it, 3,000 blacks packed a church in Philadelphia, "the bellwether city for free blacks," and "bitterly and unanimously" denounced it. [1] :261 Frederick Douglass, commenting on colonization, "Shame upon the guilty wretches that dare propose, and all that countenance such a proposition. We live here—have lived here—have a right to live here, and mean to live here." [45] Martin Delany, who believed that Black Americans deserved "a new country, a new beginning", called Liberia a "miserable mockery" of an independent republic, a "racist scheme of the ACS to rid the United States of free blacks." He proposed instead Central and South America as "the ultimate destination and future home of the colored race on this continent" (see Linconia). [46] A recent (2014) writer on Connecticut African Americans summarizes the attitude amongst them: [47]

African Americans viewed colonization as a means of defrauding them of the rights of citizenship and a way of tightening the grip of slavery. ...The tragedy was that African Americans began to view their ancestral home with disdain. They dropped the use of "African" in names of their organizations...and used instead [of African American] "The Colored American."

While claiming to aid African Americans, in some cases, to stimulate emigration, it made conditions for them worse. For example, "the Society assumed the task of resuscitating the Ohio Black Codes of 1804 and 1807. ...Between 1,000 and 1,200 free blacks were forced from Cincinnati." [1] :262 A meeting was held in Cincinnati on January 17, 1832 to discuss colonization, which resulted in a series of resolutions. First, they had a right to freedom and equality. They felt honor-bound to protect the country, the "land of their birth", and the Constitution. They were not familiar with Africa, and should have the right to make their own decisions about where they lived. They recommended that if black people wish to leave the United States, they consider Canada or Mexico, where they would have civil rights and a climate that is similar to what they are accustomed. The United States was large enough to accommodate a colony, and would be much cheaper to implement. They question the motives of ACS members who cite Christianity as a reason for removing blacks from America. Since there were no attempts to improve the conditions of black people who lived in the United States, it is unlikely that white people would watch out for their interests thousands of miles away. [48]

Opposition from whites

Wm. Lloyd Garrison

Wm. Lloyd Garrison, as he always signed himself, began publication of his abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator , in 1831, followed in 1832 by his Thoughts on African Colonization. According to President Lincoln, it was “the logic and moral power of Garrison and the antislavery people of the country” that put emancipation on the country’s political agenda. [49] Garrison himself joined it in good faith." [50] :63 All the important white future abolitionists supported the Society: besides Garrison, Gerrit Smith, the Tappans, and many others, as can be seen in the pages of the Society's African Repository.

Garrison objected to the colonization scheme because rather than eliminating slavery, its key goal, as he saw it, was to remove free black people from America, thereby avoiding slave rebellions. Besides not improving the lot of enslaved Africans, the colonization had made enemies of native people of Africa. Both he and Gerrit Smith were horrified when they learned that alcohol was being sold in Liberia. [51] :178–179 [52] :230 He questioned the wisdom of sending African Americans, along with white missionaries and agents, to such an unhealthy place. In addition, it meant that fewer slaves achieved their freedom: "it hinders the manumission of slaves by throwing their emancipation upon its own scheme, which in fifteen years has occasioned the manumission of less than four hundred slaves, while before its existence and operations during a less time thousands were set free." [53]

In the second number of The Liberator, Garrison reprinted this commentary from the Boston Statesman: [54]

We were, however, rather surprised to see the proposal of sending the free negroes to Africa as returning them to their native land. It would be as well at least to talk of sending these reverend gentlemen back to England as their native land. The negro is just as much a native here as are these reverend gentlemen themselves.—Here the negro was born, here bred, here are his earliest and pleasantest associations—here is all that binds him to earth and makes life valuable. If the welfare of the negro, and not a new scheme for begging, be really the object in view, we desire the reverend gentlemen to step forward and vindicate the rights of the negroes trampled upon by their brethren in Park Street. If they would really promote the happiness of the negro, let their efforts be directed to raise the oppressed black in the scale of moral elevation here. Let them admit him to more rights in the social world;—but unless they desire to be laughed at by all sincere and thinking men, they had better abandon the Quixotic plan of colonizing the Southern negroes at the cost of the North, until we can free our own borders from poverty, ignorance and distress.

Gerrit Smith

The philanthropist Gerrit Smith had been, as put by Society Vice-President Henry Clay, "among the most munificent patrons of this Society." [55]

This support changed to furious and bitter rejection when he realized, in the early 1830s, that the society was "quite as much an Anti-Abolition, as Colonization Society". [56] "This Colonization Society had, by an invisible process, half conscious, half unconscious, been transformed into a serviceable organ and member of the Slave Power." It was "an extreme case of sham reform". [50] :63 In November 1835, he sent the Society a letter with a check, to conclude his existing commitments, and said there would not be any more from him, because: [56]

The Society is now, and has been for some time, far more interested in the question of slavery, than in the work of Colonization—in the demolition of the Anti-Slavery Society, than in the building up of its Colony. I need not go beyond the matter and spirit of the last few numbers of its periodical for the justification of this remark. Were a stranger to form his opinion by these numbers, it would be, that the Society issuing them was quite as much an Anti-Abolition, as Colonization Society. ...It has come to this, however, that a member of the Colonization Society cannot advocate the deliverance of his enslaved fellow men, without subjecting himself to such charges of inconsistency, as the public prints abundantly cast on me, for being at the same time a member of that Society and an Abolitionist. ...Since the late alarming attacks, in the persons of its members, on the right of discussion, (and astonishing as it is, some of the suggestions for invading this right are impliedly countenanced in the African Repository,) I have looked to it, as being also the rallying point of the friends of this right. To that Society yours is hostile.

Colony of Liberia

In 1821, Lt. Robert Stockton had pointed a pistol to the head of King Peter, which allowed Stockton to persuade King Peter to sell Cape Montserrado (or Mesurado) and to establish Monrovia. [57] In 1825 and 1826, Jehudi Ashmun, Stockton's successor, took steps to lease, annex, or buy tribal lands in Africa along the coast and along major rivers leading inland in Africa to establish an American colony. Stockton's actions inspired Ashmun to use aggressive tactics in his negotiations with King Peter and in May 1825, King Peter and other native kings agreed to a treaty with Ashmun. The treaty negotiated land to Ashmun and in return, the natives received three barrels of rum, five casks of powder, five umbrellas, ten pairs of shoes, ten iron posts, and 500 bars of tobacco, as well as other items. [58]

Of the 4,571 emigrants who arrived in Liberia between 1820 and 1843, only 1,819—40%—were alive in 1843. [59] [60] The ACS knew of the high death rate, but continued to send more people to the colony. [59]

It is an oversimplication to say simply that the American Colonization Society founded Liberia. Much of what would become Liberia was a collection of settlements sponsored by state colonization societies: Mississippi in Africa, Kentucky in Africa, the Republic of Maryland, and several others. The most developed of these, the Republic of Maryland, had its own constitution, statutes, [61] and flag. These separate colonies were eventually united into Liberia, but the process was not completed until 1857.


Beginning in 1825, the Society published the African Repository and Colonial Journal . Ralph Randolph Gurley (1797–1872), who headed the Society until 1844, edited the journal, which in 1850 simplified its title to African Repository. The journal promoted both colonization and Liberia. Included were articles about Africa, lists of donors, letters of praise, information about emigrants, and official dispatches that espoused the prosperity and continued growth of the colony. [62] After 1919, the society essentially ended, but it did not formally dissolve until 1964, when it transferred its papers to the Library of Congress. [63]

Civil War and emancipation

Since the 1840s, Lincoln, an admirer of Clay, had been an advocate of the ACS program of colonizing blacks in Liberia. Early in his presidency, Abraham Lincoln tried repeatedly to arrange resettlement of the kind the ACS supported, but each arrangement failed.[ citation needed ]

The ACS continued to operate during the American Civil War, and colonized 168 blacks during the conflict. It sent 2,492 people of African descent to Liberia in the following five years following the war. The federal government provided a small amount of support for these operations through the Freedmen's Bureau. [64]

Some scholars believe that Lincoln abandoned the idea by 1863, following the use of black troops. Biographer Stephen B. Oates has observed that Lincoln thought it immoral to ask black soldiers to fight for the U.S. and then to remove them to Africa after their military service. Others, such as the historian Michael Lind, believe that as late as 1864, Lincoln continued to hold out hope for colonization, noting that he allegedly asked Attorney General Edward Bates if the Reverend James Mitchell could stay on as "your assistant or aid in the matter of executing the several acts of Congress relating to the emigration or colonizing of the freed Blacks". [65] Mitchell, a former state director of the ACS in Indiana, had been appointed by Lincoln in 1862 to oversee the government's colonization programs.[ citation needed ]

By late into his first term as president, Lincoln had publicly abandoned the idea of colonization after speaking about it with Frederick Douglass, [66] who objected harshly to it. On April 11, 1865, with the war drawing to a close, Lincoln gave a public speech at the White House supporting suffrage for blacks, a speech that led actor John Wilkes Booth, who was vigorously opposed to emancipation and black suffrage, to assassinate him. [67]

Decline and dissolution

Colonizing proved expensive; under the leadership of Henry Clay the ACS spent many years unsuccessfully trying to persuade the U.S. Congress to fund emigration. The ACS did have some success, in the 1850s, with state legislatures, such as those of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In 1850, the state of Virginia set aside $30,000 annually for five years to aid and support emigration. The Society, in its Thirty-fourth Annual Report, acclaimed the news as "a great Moral demonstration of the propriety and necessity of state action!" [68] [40] During the 1850s, the Society also received several thousand dollars from the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Maryland legislatures. Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Mississippi set up their own state societies and colonies on the coast next to Liberia. [68] However, the funds that ACS took in were inadequate to meet the Society's stated goals. "For the fourteen years preceding 1834, the receipts of that society, needing millions for its proposed operations, had averaged only about twenty-one thousand dollars a year. It had never obtained the confidence of the American people". [69]

Three of the reasons the movement never became very successful were lack of interest by free blacks, opposition by some abolitionists, [70] and the scale and costs of moving many people (there were 4 million freedmen in the South after the Civil War). [71] There were millions of black slaves in the United States, but colonization only transported a few thousand free blacks. [7]

In 1913, and again at its formal dissolution in 1964, the Society donated its records to the U.S. Library of Congress. The donated materials contain a wealth of information about the founding of the society, its role in establishing Liberia, efforts to manage and defend the colony, fundraising, recruitment of settlers, conditions for black citizens of the American South, and the way in which black settlers built and led the new nation. [72]

Following the outbreak of the First World War, the ACS sent a cablegram to President Daniel Howard of Liberia, warning him that any involvement in the war could lead to Liberia's territorial integrity being violated regardless of which side might come out on top. [73]

In Liberia, the Society maintained offices at the junction of Ashmun and Buchanan Streets at the heart of Monrovia's commercial district, next to the True Whig Party headquarters in the Edward J. Roye Building. Its offices at the site closed in 1956 when the government demolished all the buildings at the intersection for the purpose of constructing new public buildings there. Nevertheless, the land officially remained the property of the Society into the 1980s, amassing large amounts of back taxes because the Ministry of Finance could not find an address to which to send property tax bills. [74]

Viewed through the perspective of racism

In the 1950s, racism was an increasingly important issue and by the late 1960s and 1970s it had been forced to the forefront of public consciousness by the civil rights movement. The prevalence of racism invited a revaluation of the Society's motives, prompting historians to examine the ACS in terms of racism more than its stance on slavery. [75] By the 1980s and 1990s, historians were going even further in reimagining the ACS. Not only were they focusing on the racist rhetoric of the Society's members and publications, but some also depicted the Society as proslavery organization. [76] Recently however, some scholars have retreated from an analysis of the ACS as proslavery, and with some characterizing it as an antislavery organization again. [77]

See also


  1. Although Randolph believed that the removal of free blacks would "materially tend to secure" slave property, the vast majority of early members wanted to free African slaves and their descendants and provide them with the opportunity to "return" to Africa. [26]
  2. Henry Clay thought that deportation of free blacks was preferable to trying to integrate them in America, believing that:
    "unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off." [29]
  3. In the north, for instance, there were negative beliefs about African Americans. One was that some northerners felt that African Americans had a natural tendency toward criminality. "Massachusetts politician Edward Everett spoke for many Northern colonizationists when he supported colonizing free blacks, whom he described as vagabonds, criminals, and a drain on Northern society." [30] Another belief was that African Americans could not be educated or become citizens since they were believed to be mentally inferior to whites, and thus unfit for citizenship. As formulated by racist author Thomas Dixon Jr., "The negro is a human donkey. You can train him, but you can't make of him a horse." [31] Some Society members were openly racist and frequently argued that free blacks would be unable to assimilate into the white society of the United States. John Randolph, a Virginia politician and major slaveholder, said that free blacks were "promoters of mischief". [32] The proposed solution was to have free Blacks deported from the United States "back to Africa". [33]
  4. Presbyterian clergyman Lyman Beecher said of the goal to Christianize Africa:
    It is not necessary that the Colonization Society should be or claim to be an adequate remedy for slavery. Her great and primary object, is the emancipation of Africa, while she anticipated as an incidental result, the emancipation of the colored race at home. But if time has disclosed what she could not foresee, she may bow submissively to the providential will of heaven. [37]

Related Research Articles

History of Liberia Historical development of Liberia

Liberia is a country in West Africa which was founded by free people of color from the United States. The emigration of African Americans, both free and recently emancipated, was funded and organized by the American Colonization Society (ACS). The mortality rate of these settlers was the highest in accurately recorded human history. Of the 4,571 emigrants who arrived in Liberia between 1820 and 1843, only 1,819 survived.

Flag of Liberia National flag

The flag of Liberia or the Liberian flag bears a close resemblance to the flag of the United States, representing Liberia's founding by former black slaves from the United States and the Caribbean.

Jehudi Ashmun Religious leader and social reformer

Jehudi Ashmun was an American religious leader and social reformer from New England who became involved in the American Colonization Society. It founded the colony of Liberia in West Africa as a place to resettle free people of color from the United States.

James Forten

James Forten was an African-American abolitionist and wealthy businessman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born free in the city, he became a sailmaker after the American Revolutionary War. Following an apprenticeship, he became the foreman and bought the sail loft when his boss retired. Based on equipment he himself had developed, he established a highly profitable business. It was located on the busy waterfront of the Delaware River, in an area now called Penn's Landing.

Ralph Randolph Gurley was an American clergyman, an advocate of the separation of the races, and a major force for 50 years in the American Colonization Society. It offered passage to free black Americans to the ACS colony in west Africa. It bought land from chiefs of the indigenous Africans. Because of his influence in fundraising and education about the ACS, Gurley is considered one of the founders of Liberia, which he named.

Abraham Lincoln's position on slavery in the United States is one of the most discussed aspects of his life. Lincoln often expressed moral opposition to slavery in public and private. "I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong," he stated in a now-famous quote. "I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel." However, the question of what to do about it and how to end it, given that it was so firmly embedded in the nation's constitutional framework, in Congress, and in the economy of much of the country, was complex and politically challenging. In addition, there was the unanswered question, which Lincoln had to deal with, of what would become of the four million slaves if liberated: how they would earn a living in a society that had almost always rejected them, or looked down on their very presence.

Robert Finley American educator and clergyman

Robert Finley was an American clergyman and educator who is known as one of the founders of the American Colonization Society, which established the colony of Liberia in West Africa as a place for free American Blacks.

Republic of Maryland Former country in West Africa

The Republic of Maryland was a country in West Africa that existed from 1834 to 1857, when it was merged into what is now Liberia. The area was first settled in 1834 by freed African-American slaves and freeborn African Americans primarily from the U.S. state of Maryland, under the auspices of the Maryland State Colonization Society.

<i>Freedoms Journal</i> First African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States (1827-1829)

Freedom's Journal was the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States. Founded by Rev. John Wilk and other free black men in New York City, it was published weekly starting with the 16 March 1827 issue. Freedom's Journal was superseded in 1829 by The Rights of All, published between 1829 and 1830 by Samuel Cornish, the former senior editor of the Journal. The View covered it as part of Black History Month in 2021.

Lott Cary

Lott Cary was an African-American Baptist minister and lay physician who was a missionary leader in the founding of the colony of Liberia on the west coast of Africa in the 1820s. He founded the first Baptist church there in 1822, now known as Providence Baptist Church of Monrovia. He served as the colony's acting governor from August 1828 to his death in November of that year.

John Brown Russwurm Americo-Liberian politician

John Brown Russwurm was an abolitionist, newspaper publisher, and colonizer of Liberia where he moved from the United States. He was born in Jamaica to an English father and enslaved mother. As a child he traveled to the United States with his father and received a formal education, becoming the first African American to graduate from Hebron Academy and Bowdoin College.


Mississippi-in-Africa was a colony on the Pepper Coast founded in the 1830s by the Mississippi Colonization Society of the United States and settled by American free people of color, many of them former slaves. In the late 1840s, some 300 former slaves from Prospect Hill Plantation and other Isaac Ross properties in Jefferson County, Mississippi, were the largest single group of emigrants to the new colony. Ross had freed the slaves in his will and provided for his plantation to be sold to pay for their transportation and initial costs.

The Back-to-Africa movement was based on the widespread belief in the 18th and 19th century United States that African Americans would return to the continent of Africa. In general, the movement was an overwhelming failure; very few former slaves wanted to move to Africa. The small number of freed slaves who did settle in Africa—some under duress—initially faced brutal conditions. As the failure became known in the United States in the 1820s, it spawned and energized the abolitionist movement. In the 20th century, the Jamaican political activist and black nationalist Marcus Garvey, members of the Rastafari movement, and other African Americans supported the concept, but few actually left the United States.

Daniel Coker

Daniel Coker (1780–1846), born Isaac Wright, was an African American of mixed race from Baltimore, Maryland; after he gained freedom from slavery, he became a Methodist minister. He wrote one of the few pamphlets published in the South that protested against slavery and supported abolition. In 1816 he helped found the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States, at its first national convention in Philadelphia.

Hilary Teague, sometimes written as Hilary Teage, was a Liberian merchant, journalist, and politician in the early years of the West African nation of Liberia. A native of the state of Virginia in the United States, he was known for his oratory skills and was prominent in early Liberian colonial politics. A leading advocate for Liberian independence from the American Colonization Society, he drafted the Liberian Declaration of Independence in 1847, serving as both a senator and the first Secretary of State for the new nation in the years that followed.

Maryland State Colonization Society organization for "repatriation" of African Americans to Africa

The Maryland State Colonization Society was the Maryland branch of the American Colonization Society, an organization founded in 1816 with the purpose of returning free African Americans to what many Southerners considered greater freedom in Africa. The ACS helped to found the colony of Liberia in 1821–22, as a place for freedmen. The Maryland State Colonization Society was responsible for founding the Republic of Maryland in West Africa, a short lived independent state that in 1857 was annexed by Liberia. The goal of the society was "to be a remedy for slavery", such that "slavery would cease in the state by the full consent of those interested", but this end was never achieved, and it would take the outbreak of the Civil War to bring slavery to an end in Maryland.

Charles Stuart (abolitionist)

Captain Charles Stuart was an Anglo-Canadian abolitionist in the early-to-mid-19th century. After leaving the army, he was a writer, primarily on slavery.

History of slavery in Maryland

Slavery in Maryland lasted over 200 years, from its beginnings in 1642 when the first Africans were brought as slaves to St. Mary's City, to its end after the Civil War. While Maryland developed similarly to neighboring Virginia, slavery declined here as an institution earlier, and it had the largest free black population by 1860 of any state. The early settlements and population centers of the province tended to cluster around the rivers and other waterways that empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland planters cultivated tobacco as the chief commodity crop, as the market was strong in Europe. Tobacco was labor-intensive in both cultivation and processing, and planters struggled to manage workers as tobacco prices declined in the late 17th century, even as farms became larger and more efficient. At first, indentured servants from England supplied much of the necessary labor but, as their economy improved at home, fewer made passage to the colonies. Maryland colonists turned to importing indentured and enslaved Africans to satisfy the labor demand.

Abolitionism in the United States Movement to end slavery in the United States

Abolitionism in the United States was a movement which sought to end gradually or immediately slavery in the United States. It was active from the late colonial era until the American Civil War, which brought the abolition of American slavery through the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The anti-slavery movement originated during the Age of Enlightenment, focused on ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In Colonial America, a few German Quakers issued the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, which marks the beginning of the American abolitionist movement. Before the Revolutionary War, evangelical colonists were the primary advocates for the opposition to slavery and the slave trade, doing so on humanitarian grounds. James Oglethorpe, the English owner of the colony of Georgia, originally tried to prohibit slavery upon its founding, a decision which was eventually reversed.

The Colony of Liberia, later the Commonwealth of Liberia, was a private colony of the American Colonization Society (ACS) beginning in 1822. It became an independent nation—the Republic of Liberia—after declaring independence in 1847.


  1. 1 2 3 Irvine, Russell W.; Dunkerton, Donna Zani (Winter 1998). "The Noyes Academy, 1834–35: The Road to the Oberlin Collegiate Institute and the Higher Education of African-Americans in the Nineteenth Century". Western Journal of Black Studies. 22 (4): 260–273.
  2. Power-Greene, Ousmane (2014). Against Wind and Tide: The African American Struggle Against the Colonization Movement. New York: New York University Press. pp. 1–10. ISBN   9781479823178.
  3. Key, Francis Scott (November 1836). "Mr. Key on the Colonization Society". African Repository and Colonial Journal . 12 (11): 339–351, at pp. 346–347 and 350–351. Neither he nor the Colonization Society called for the abolition of slavery; their mission instead focused solely on sending freed blacks to Africa. This was one of the reasons that few abolitionists had any use for the society.
  4. Leepson, Marc (June 24, 2014). What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. p. xiii. ISBN   9781137278289.
  5. Garrison, Wm. Lloyd (1832). Thoughts on African Colonization. Boston: Garrison and Knapp. pp. 11–13.
  6. Introduction – Social Aspects of the Civil War Archived July 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Background on conflict in Liberia", Friends Committee on National Legislation, July 30, 2003 Archived February 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. Barton (1850), p. 9.
  9. "Death on the Grain Coast". The Guardian. August 31, 2005. ISSN   0261-3077. Archived from the original on July 8, 2021. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  10. "A difficult life for Black Loyalists". Remembering Black Loyalists. Nova Scotia Museum. 2001. Archived from the original on November 30, 2020. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  11. "Departure for Sierra Leone". Remembering Black Loyalists. Nova Scotia Museum. 2001. Archived from the original on February 3, 2020. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  12. "Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on March 16, 2020. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  13. "Freetown and the transatlantic slave trade". Endangered archives blog. British Library. Archived from the original on March 23, 2020. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  14. Anderson, Richard Peter (2020). Abolition in Sierra Leone: Re-Building Lives and Identities in Nineteenth-Century West Africa. Cambridge University Press. pp. 76–79. ISBN   978-1-108-47354-5. Archived from the original on July 8, 2021. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  15. Thomas, Lamont D. Paul Cuffe: Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988) pp. 46–56, 93–106.
  16. "Map of Liberia, West Africa". World Digital Library . 1830. Archived from the original on May 18, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  17. Frankie Hutton (1983). "Economic Considerations in the American Colonization Society's Early Effort to Emigrate Free Blacks to Liberia, 1816–36", The Journal of Negro History. doi : 10.2307/2717564. JSTOR   2717564.
  18. Broward, Napoleon Bonaparte. "Race Relations". 2003 additions: Speeches and Writings. George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida. Archived from the original on September 4, 2019. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  19. Egerton, Douglas R., "Its Origin Is Not a Little Curious: A New Look at the American Colonization Society", Journal of the Early Republic (1985), pp. 463–480. JSTOR   3123062.
  20. 1 2 Bateman, Graham; Victoria Egan, Fiona Gold, and Philip Gardner (2000). Encyclopedia of World Geography. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. p. 161. ISBN   1-56619-291-9.
  21. 1 2 "Colonization: Thirty-Sixth Anniversary of the American Colonization Society" Archived December 16, 2019, at the Wayback Machine , The New York Times , January 19, 1853
  22. 1 2 3 Dunne, Gerald. "Bushrod Washington and The Mount Vernon Slaves". 1980 Yearbook. Supreme Court Historical Society. Archived from the original on October 9, 2002. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  23. Finkelman, Paul (2006). Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass Three-volume set. Oxford University Press. p. 57. ISBN   978-0-19-516777-1. Archived from the original on May 5, 2017. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  24. "American Colonization Society membership certificate, 1833 | The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History". August 9, 2012. Archived from the original on September 17, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  25. Gilman, Daniel Coit; Peck, Harry Thurston; Colby, Frank Moore (1911). The New International Encyclopedia. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company. p. 161.
  26. 1 2 3 Alexander, Archibald (1846). A History of Colonization on the Western Coast of Africa. Philadelphia: William S. Martien. pp.  87.
  27. Committee appointed by the first Annual Meeting of the New-York [ sic ] State Anti-Slavery Society, of which Committee Alvan Stewart, Esq., was Chairman (1836). "Address to the Abolitionists of the State of New York". Proceedings of the first annual meeting of the New-York State Anti-slavery Society, convened at Utica, October 19, 1836. Utica, New York. pp.  41–54.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  28. Webber, Christopher L. (2011). American to the Backbone: The Life of James W. C. Pennington, the Fugitive Slave Who Became One of the First Black Abolitionists. New York: Pegasus Books. p.  59. ISBN   978-1-6059-8175-8.
  29. Sale, Maggie Montesinos. The Slumbering Volcano: American Slave Ship Revolts and the Production of Rebellious Masculinity. Duke University Press, 1997. p. 264. ISBN   0-8223-1992-6
  30. Newman (2008), p. 203.
  31. "The Negro Problem. Race Questions Vigorously Discussed by Thomas Dixon, Jr., in The Leopard's Spots". The Times (Philadelphia) . April 12, 1902. p. 14. Archived from the original on April 15, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  32. Kinshasa, Kwando Mbiassi. Emigration vs. Assimilation: The Debate in the African American Press, 1827–1861 University of Michigan, 1988. p. 128
  33. Yarema (2006), pp. 26–27.
    Free Blacks, according to many Whigs, would never be accepted into white society, and so the only acceptable solution seemed to be emigration to Africa.
    "Northern philanthropic groups supported colonization as an effective way to elevate free blacks who migrated to northern states."
  34. Starr, Frederick (1913). Liberia: description, history, problems. Chicage: Frederick Starr. p. 9. ISBN   9780598450234. OCLC   6791808. Archived from the original on July 8, 2021. Retrieved November 28, 2015. At Google Books.
  35. Semmes, John E. (October 1917). Chapter 6: African Colonization. John H. B. Latrobe and His Times. Baltimore, Maryland: The Norman, Remington Company. p. 167. LCCN   18002814. OCLC   262462816. Archived from the original on March 7, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2019 via HathiTrust Digital Library.
  36. 1 2 "Auxiliary Societies – Colonization". African Repository and Colonial Journal . From the Carlisle, Pennsylvania Expositor. March 1834. pp. 219–220. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2020.CS1 maint: others (link)
  37. 1 2 Beecher, Lyman (November 1834). "Dr. Beecher's Address". African Repository and Colonial Journal . From the Cincinnati Journal, June 13, 1834. Archived from the original on May 31, 2017.
  38. Society, American Colonization (1842). Annual Report of the American Colonization Society: With Minutes of the Annual Meeting and of the Board of Directors. American Colonization Society. p. 26. Archived from the original on July 8, 2021. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  39. Hodge, Carl Cavanagh; Nolan, Cathal J. (2007). US Presidents and Foreign Policy. ABC-CLIO. p. 49. ISBN   978-1-85109-790-6. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  40. 1 2 American Colonization Society (1851). Thirty-Fourth Annual Report of the American Colonization Society. Washington: C. Alexander. pp.  9–10.
  41. Hall, James (April 1834). "Education and slavery". Western Monthly Magazine. pp. 266–273, at p. 272.
  42. Quarles, Benjamin (1969). Black abolitionists. New York: Oxford University Press. OCLC   740959879.
  43. Egerton, Douglas R. (June 1997). "Averting a Crisis: The Proslavery Critique of the American Colonization Society". Civil War History . 43 (2): 142–156. doi:10.1353/cwh.1997.0099. Archived from the original on July 24, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2019 via Project Muse.
  44. Wesley, Dorothy Porter (1995). Early Negro Writing, 1760–1837. Black Classic Press. p. 250. ISBN   978-0-933121-59-1. Archived from the original on August 19, 2020. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  45. Leavenworth, Jesse (May 22, 2003). "Re-Creating 1834 Debates on Abolition". Hartford Courant . Archived from the original on January 27, 2020. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  46. Jackson, Holly (2019). American Radicals. How Nineteenth-Century Protest Shaped the Nation. New York: Crown. p. 173. ISBN   978-0525573098.
  47. Harris, Katherine J. (2014). "Colonization and Abolition in Connecticut". In Normen, Elizabeth J.; Harris, Katherine J.; Close, Stacey K.; Mitchell, Wm. Frank; White, Olivia (eds.). African American Connecticut Explored. Wesleyan University Press. p. 64. ISBN   978-0-8195-7398-8. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2020 via Project MUSE.
  48. "A Voice from Ohio!". The Liberator . February 4, 1832. p. 2. Archived from the original on October 17, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2019 via
  49. Sinha, Manisha (July 5, 2019). "The Politics of Abolishing Slavery". The New York Times . p. A20. Archived from the original on December 9, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  50. 1 2 Chapman, John Jay (1913). William Lloyd Garrison. New York: Moffat, Yard and Company.
  51. Henry, Stuart C. (1973). Unvanquished Puritan : a portrait of Lyman Beecher. Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. OCLC   0802834264.
  52. Tappan, Lewis (1870). The Life of Arthur Tappan. New York: Hurd and Houghton.
  53. Wright Jr., E[lizur] (January 5, 1833). "Letter to the editor". The Liberator . p. 2. Archived from the original on September 5, 2019. Retrieved September 5, 2019 via
  54. "Colonization". The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts). January 8, 1831. p. 2. Archived from the original on July 8, 2021. Retrieved November 18, 2020 via
  55. Clay, Henry (1836). Address to the Annual Meeting of the American Colonization Society, December 15, 1835. African Repository . 12. pp.  9–11.
  56. 1 2 Smith, Gerrit (1836). Letter to R[alph] R[andolph] Gurley, Secretary of the American Colonization Society, November 24, 1835. African Repository . 12. pp.  36–37.
  57. "Map of Liberia, West Africa". January 1, 1830. Archived from the original on May 18, 2020. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  58. Paul, Cuffee; Jehudi, Ashmun; Society, American Colonization (July 23, 2010). "Colonization – The African-American Mosaic Exhibition | Exhibitions (Library of Congress)". Archived from the original on February 26, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
  59. 1 2 Shick, Tom W. (January 1971). "A quantitative analysis of Liberian colonization from 1820 to 1843 with special reference to mortality". The Journal of African History. 12 (1): 45–59. doi:10.1017/S0021853700000062. JSTOR   180566. PMID   11632218.[ permanent dead link ]
  60. Shick, Tom W. (1980). Behold the Promised Land: A History of Afro-American Settler Society in Nineteenth-century Liberia. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   978-0801823091.
  61. Constitution and Laws of Maryland in Liberia With an Appendix of Precedents (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Maryland State Colonization Society. 1847.
  62. "Colonization: African-American Mosaic Exhibition (Library of Congress)". Archived from the original on December 11, 2015. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  63. Cuffee, Paul; Ashmun, Jehudi; Society, American Colonization (July 23, 2010). "Colonization - The African-American Mosaic Exhibition | Exhibitions (Library of Congress)". Archived from the original on February 26, 2011. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  64. Oubre, Forty Acres and a Mule (1978), p. 6.
  65. "Bates to Lincoln, November 30, 1864, Library of Congress". Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  66. Foner, Eric (December 31, 2012). "The Emancipation of Abraham Lincoln". The New York Times . New York. Archived from the original on April 19, 2015. Retrieved April 5, 2015. The proclamation was immediate, not gradual, contained no mention of compensation for owners, and made no reference to colonization. In it, Lincoln addressed blacks directly, not as property subject to the will of others but as men and women whose loyalty the Union must earn. For the first time, he welcomed black soldiers into the Union Army; over the next two years some 200,000 black men would serve in the Army and Navy, playing a critical role in achieving Union victory. And Lincoln urged freed slaves to go to work for 'reasonable wages' – in the United States. He never again mentioned colonization in public.
  67. Lincoln, Abraham (April 11, 1865). "Last public address". Washington, D.C. Archived from the original on March 18, 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  68. 1 2 "Colonization: The African-American Mosaic Exhibition/ Exhibitions (Library of Congress)". July 23, 2010. Archived from the original on February 26, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  69. Birney, William (1884). Sketch of the life of James G. Birney. Chicago: National ChristianAssociation. p.  13.
  70. "Clipping from The Liberator". Archived from the original on September 4, 2019. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  71. Editors, History com. "Reconstruction". HISTORY. Archived from the original on May 28, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  72. "West Africa's Past (October 2010) – Library of Congress Information Bulletin". Archived from the original on May 5, 2017. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  73. Akingbade, Harrison (March 1, 1978). "Liberia and the First World War 1914–1926". A Current Bibliography on African Affairs. 10 (3): 243–258. doi:10.1177/001132557801000303. ISSN   0011-3255. S2CID   162781839.
  74. "American Colonization Society Still Owns Land in Liberia?" [Monrovia] SunTimes 1985-07-03: 12.
  75. George M. Fredrickson. The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817–1914. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. 1971; Floyd J. Miller, The Search for a Black Nationality: Black Emigration and Colonization 1781–1863, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1975; Edwin S. Redkey, Black Exodus: Black Nationalist and Back-to-Africa Movements, 1890–1910, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969; P. J. Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement 1816–1865, New York: Columbia University Press. (1961).
  76. Amos J. Beyan, The American Colonization Society and the Creation of the Liberian State: A Historical Perspective, New York: University Press of America, 1991; Douglas R. Egerton, "'Its Origin Is Not a Little Curious': A New Look at the American Colonization Society," Journal of the Early Republic 5, no. 4 (1985): 463–80; Yekutiel Gershoni, Black Colonialism: The Americo-Liberian Scramble for the Hinterland, Boulder: Westview Press, 1985.
  77. Eric Burin, Slavery and the Peculiar Solution: A History of the American Colonization Society, Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2005; Claude A. Clegg, The Price of Liberty: African Americans and the Making of Liberia, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004; Douglas R. Egerton, "Averting a Crisis: The Proslavery Critique of the American Colonization Society," in Rebels, Reformers, & Revolutionaries: Collected Essays and Second Thoughts, New York: Routledge, 2002.


Further reading