American Colonization Society
Brief Exposition of the Views of the Society for the Colonization of Free Persons of Colour in Africa. Courtesy of Ross County Historical Society.
Formed in 1817, the American Colonization Society was one of the first organizations in the country to work for the end of slavery.
Most members of the American Colonization Society were from religious groups in the North or they were slave owners from states such as Kentucky and Virginia in the Upper South. Members of the Society of Friends or Quakers were especially active in the Society.
The American Colonization Society primarily desired to return both free and enslaved African Americans to Africa. Its members realized that many whites, both in the North and in the South, feared an end to slavery because they did not want to face competition from or live next to former slaves. To deal with this fear, the American Colonization Society proposed sending former slaves and African Americans who had been born free to Liberia in Africa. The American Colonization Society also pressured the federal government to compensate slave owners who freed their slaves.
By 1830, the American Colonization had managed to send only 1,400 blacks to Liberia. More slaves were born every week, than the American Colonization Society sent back to Africa in an entire year. When given the choice between life as a slave or freedom in Africa, many slaves chose to remain in the United States. These people realized that they had no idea what life was like in Africa. They preferred to remain in the life they knew, rather than face the unknown.
Many white Ohioans supported the American Colonization Society and its efforts to end slavery. Several American Colonization Society chapters existed in Ohio until the Civil War. Other white Ohioans vehemently opposed the American Colonization Society and its ideals. People like Charles Osborn and Benjamin Lundy believed African-American slaves deserved immediate freedom and the exact same rights as white people. These more radical abolitionists emerged during the 1820s and the 1830s, causing the American Colonization Society to begin to lose financial and political support.
By 1867, the Society had sent just 15,386 people to Liberia. In the years after the Civil War, the Society spent most of its limited resources on education and missionary work, no longer spending money to send African Americans to Liberia. The American Colonization Society formally disbanded in 1964.
- Burin, Eric. Slavery and the Peculiar Solution: A History of the American Colonization Society. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.
- Staudenraus, P.J. The African Colonization Movement, 1816-1865. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1961.