Whereas our ancestors (not of choice) were the first successful cultivators of the wilds of America, we their descendants feel ourselves entitled to participate in the blessings of her luxuriant soil... We will never separate ourselves voluntarily from the slave population of this country; they are our brethren by the ties of consanguinity, of suffering and of wrong.
- Resolution of assembled free blacks, Bethel AME Church, Philadelphia, January 15, 1817
The last census shows the number of free people of color of the United States, and their rapid increase. Supposing them to increase in the same ratio, it will appear how large a proportion of our population will, in the course of even a few years, consist of persons of that description.
... The least observation shows that this description of persons are not, and cannot be, either useful or happy among us; and many considerations, which need not be mentioned, prove, beyond dispute, that it is best, for all the parties interested, that there should be a separation...
- The American Colonization Society
James Forten, a prominent black Philadelphian businessman, supported
Cuffe's schemes. Other black leaders, such as Richard Allen and
Absalom Jones, knew only too well the effects of prejudice, and
were interested in colonization.
Soon after its founding, the American Colonization Society contacted
James Forten to help recruit colonists from Philadelphia. On January
15, 1817, black leaders called a meeting at Bethel to discuss
the idea. Almost 3,000 black men packed the church. Forten and
three prominent black ministers, Allen, Jones, and John Gloucester,
spoke in favor of emigrating to Africa. However, when Forten called
for those in favor, not one voice answered. When he called for
those opposed, one tremendous "no" rang out that seemed
"as it would bring down the walls of the building."
As Forten wrote to Paul Cuffe, "there was not one sole [sic]
that was in favor of going to Africa."
Memoir of Captain Paul Cuffe, Liverpool Mercury
A Portrait of James Forten
Forten Letter to Cuffe
Free blacks across the country had varying responses to the question of colonization. In Richmond, the idea was also rejected, but Abraham Camp, a free black living in Illinois, a free state that was nonetheless inhospitable to blacks, embraced the idea, as his letter to the Secretary of the American Colonization Society attests.
The Meeting of Free People of Color of Richmond, Virginia
Camp's letter to Caldwell
Next: Conspiracy and Rebellions
Part 3 Narrative:
Map: The Growing Nation
Freedom and Resistance
The Black Church
Conspiracy and Rebellions
Growth and Entrenchment of Slavery
Part 3: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide
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