Frederick Douglas on Colonization

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AFRICAN COLONIZATION

Thomas Jefferson was a colonizationist. So was Harriet Beecher Stowe's (the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin) father. Neither man actually belonged to the American Colonization Society, but like the white Americans who founded that group in 1816 they believed both that slavery would or should be abolished and that freed slaves should be transported out of the United States. . . . Stowe's choice of sending most of the "black" characters to Africa at the end of Uncle Tom's Cabin was one of the most controversial aspects of the novel with abolitionist and African American readers. It may have been one of the most popular with white readers. It is also one of the ways that her novel resembles the stories that others wrote to oppose it (see, for example, Sarah Hale's Liberia).
 


COLONIZATION
by Frederick Douglas


Published in
The North Star Rochester: 26 January 1849

In order to divert the hounds from the pursuit of the fox, a "red herring" is sometimes drawn across the trail, and the hounds mistaking it for the real scent, the game is often lost. We look upon the recent debate in the Senate of the United States, over this wrinkled old "red herring" of colonization as a ruse to divert the attention of the people from the foul abomination which is sought to be forced upon the free soil of California and New Mexico, and which is now struggling for existence in Kentucky, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The slaveholders are evidently at a stand to know what trick they shall try next to turn the scorching rays of anti-slavery light and truth from the bloodshot eyes of the monster slavery. The discussion of it is most painful and agonizing; and if it continues, the very life of this foul, unnatural and adulterous beast will be put in imminent peril; so the slaveholding charmers have conjured up their old familiar spirits of colonization, making the old essence of abomination to flounder about in its grave clothes before the eyes of Northern men, to their utter confusion and bewilderment. A drowning man will catch at a straw. Slavery is sinking in public estimation. It is going down. It wants help, and asks through Mr. Underwood, of Kentucky, how much of the public money (made by the honest toil of Northern men) will be at its service in the event of emancipation, "as some are in favor of emancipation, provided that the Negroes can be sent to Liberia, or beyond the limits of the United States."

Here we have the old colonization spirit revived, and the impudent proposition entertained by the Senate of the United States of expelling the free colored people from the United States, their native land, to Liberia.

In view of this proposition, we would respectfully suggest to the assembled wisdom of the nation, that it might be well to ascertain the number of free colored people who will be likely to need the assistance of government to help them out of this country to Liberia, or elsewhere, beyond the limits of these United States--since this course might save any embarrassment which would result from an appropriation more than commensurate to the numbers who might be disposed to leave this, our own country, for one we know not of. We are of the opinion that the free colored people generally mean to live in America, and not in Africa; and to appropriate a large sum for our removal, would merely be a waste of the public money. We do not mean to go to Liberia. Our minds are made up to live here if we can, or die here if we must; so every attempt to remove us will be, as it ought to be, labor lost. Here we are, and here we shall remain. While our brethren are in bondage on these shores, it is idle to think of inducing any considerable number of the free colored people to quit this for a foreign land.

For two hundred and twenty-eight years has the colored man toiled over the soil of America, under a burning sun and a driver's lash--plowing, planting, reaping, that white men might roll in ease, their hands unhardened by labor, and their brows unmoistened by the waters of genial toil; and now that the moral sense of mankind is beginning to revolt at this system of foul treachery and cruel wrong, and is demanding its overthrow, the mean and cowardly oppressor is meditating plans to expel the colored man entirely from the country. 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.--F.D.

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