What Colonization Means

Home  |  The African Continent  |  Africa & the World  |  Indigenous to America


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).


by R.G.Williams

New York: Published in the American Anti-Slavery Society, July 1835

Our colored brethren have always understood that colonization means expatriation, a cruel driving out of the country. And it is remarkable how few of them, by all the art, and argument, and benevolence too, of the colonization community, have been persuaded to embrace the scheme. An old colored woman, who had been most of her life a slave in Virginia, said to the writer of this, when he spoke to her of the bright prospects of Liberia, "Ah, sir, if it's going to be so good a place, the white folks will come and take it by and by. I know them well enough. They always take what's best." It is needless to say that this woman could not be convinced of the benevolence of colonization. It is not to be denied by any body, that there is in this country a very general hatred of the colored people. And it might have been predicted with certainty, that any plan for their general removal, however benevolent in motive, and however careful it might be to act only by their own consent, would bring into life and action a general desire to drive them out. Such has been the fact in regard to the American Colonization Society. We have abundance of proof, but at present have only room for the following.

Extract from the Maryland Temperance Herald of May 30, 1835. "We are indebted to the committee of publication, for the first number of the Maryland Colonization Journal, a new quarterly periodical, devoted to the cause of colonization in our state. Such a paper has long been necessary; we hope this will be useful.

"Every reflecting man must be convinced, that the time is not far distant when the safety of this country will require the EXPULSION of the blacks from its limits.--It is perfect folly to suppose that a foreign population, whose physical peculiarities must forever render them distinct from the owners of the soil, can be permitted to grow and strengthen among us with impunity. Let hair-brained enthusiasts speculate as they may, no abstract considerations of the natural rights of man will ever elevate the negro population to an equality with the whites. As long as they remain in the land of their bondage, they will be morally, if not physically, enslaved, and indeed, as long as their distinct nationality is preserved, their enlightenment will be a measure of doubtful policy. Under such circumstances, every philanthropist will wish to see them removed, but gradually, and with as little violence as possible. For effecting this purpose, no scheme is liable to so few objections as that of African Colonization. It has been said that this plan has effected but little--true, but no other has done any thing. We do not expect that the exertions of benevolent individuals will be able to rid us of the millions of blacks who oppress and are oppressed by us. All they can accomplish, is, to satisfy the public of the practicality of the scheme--they can make the experiment--they are making it, and with success. The state of Maryland has already adopted this plan, and before long, every southern state will have its colony. The whole African coast will be strewn with cities, and then should some fearful convulsion render it necessary to the public safety TO BANISH THE MULTITUDE AT ONCE, a house of refuge will have been provided for them in the land of their fathers."

At a convention of gradualists and colonizationists, held on the 23d of May, 1835, at Shelbyville, Kentucky, the following resolutions were passed.

"Resolved, That the system of domestic slavery, as it exists in this commonwealth, is both a moral and political evil, and a violation of the natural rights of man.

"Resolved, That no system of emancipation will meet with our approbation, unless colonization be inseparably connected with it; and that any scheme of emancipation which shall leave the blacks within our borders, is more to be deprecated than slavery itself."

So the only condition on which the slaves are to be emancipated isexile. This is no emancipation at all. For if a man is free, he must be free to stay in the land of his birth. The plain meaning of these resolutions is, that the resolvers are so bent upon expatriating their poor colored laborers, that they rush on to a "violation of the natural rights of man" to effect their purpose. Would it be any worse in principle to free the slaves by cutting their throats? And again, is it not wrong to advocate a scheme which gives the least countenance to such iniquity?

At the anniversaries in New Hampshire, the Rev. R. R. Gurley, secretary of the American Colonization Society, being called upon by Mr. May to give his opinion concerning the Maryland scheme, gave utterance to the following remarkable sentiment. With regard to direct legislation he would confess that his mind was not clear. This he would say, on his own responsibility, that when the time arrived that slavery should become a great political question, he conceived it might be justifiable for a state to select a spot, here or in Africa, and carry the blacks there, willing or unwilling. But he should object to the Maryland scheme, because,at the present time, such rigorous laws were unnecessary.

Here is a sentiment as murderous to the peace of the colored people as a dagger thrust into the heart.

comments and letters to comments@ipoaa.com