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Colonization and Its Discontents

Colonization and Its Discontents: Emancipation, Emigration, and Antislavery in Antebellum Pennsylvania

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Colonization and Its Discontents
    Book Description:

    Pennsylvania contained the largest concentration of early America's abolitionist leaders and organizations, making it a necessary and illustrative stage from which to understand how national conversations about the place of free blacks in early America originated and evolved, and, importantly, the role that colonization - supporting the emigration of free and emancipated blacks to Africa - played in national and international antislavery movements. Beverly C. Tomek's meticulous exploration of the archives of the American Colonization Society, Pennsylvania's abolitionist societies, and colonizationist leaders (both black and white) enables her to boldly and innovatively demonstrate that, in Philadelphia at least, the American Colonization Society often worked closely with other antislavery groups to further the goals of the abolitionist movement.In Colonization and Its Discontents, Tomek brings a much-needed examination of the complexity of the colonization movement by describing in depth the difference between those who supported colonization for political and social reasons and those who supported it for religious and humanitarian reasons. Finally, she puts the black perspective on emigration into the broader picture instead of treating black nationalism as an isolated phenomenon and examines its role in influencing the black abolitionist agenda.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8443-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)

    On the evening of May 17, 1838, at least nine Philadelphia fire companies stood by and watched as the four-day-old, $40,000 Pennsylvania Hall burned to the ground. In contemporary accounts of the blaze, some said the firemen were complicit in the destruction and worked only to prevent the fire from spreading to the surrounding buildings. Others reported that at least one fire company tried to save the hall but was prevented from doing so by an angry mob.¹ The extent of the effort made by Philadelphia’s mayor and police force to protect the building is also unclear. What is certain...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    Pennsylvania offers an excellent lens through which to view the changes that took place within the American antislavery community from the founding era to the ultimate achievement of emancipation during the Civil War. First is the fact that unlike other antislavery strongholds such as Massachusetts and New York, Pennsylvania contained strong chapters of three major antislavery groups—the “gradualists” of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society (PAS), the colonizationists of the Pennsylvania Colonization Society (PCS), and the “immediatists” or “modern” abolitionists of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society (PASS). Second, the state’s abolitionist legacy and its geographical location as a northern border state created...

  7. 1 “Many negroes in these parts may prove prejudissial several wayes to us and our posteraty”: The Crucial Elements of Exclusion and Social Control in Pennsylvania’s Early Antislavery Movement
    (pp. 18-42)

    America’s antislavery movement underwent a sea change in 1817. The oldest champion of black freedom reported to the annual convention of American abolition societies that year that “the number of those actively engaged in the cause of the oppressed Africans is very small.” Struggling since 1804 to gain a quorum at many of their scheduled meetings, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society blamed this apathy on the retirement of many of its seasoned leaders, combined with “a mistaken impression that the work is nearly accomplished.” Their effort to lead the freed along a path of social conditioning was wilting as well. Instead...

  8. 2 “A certain simple grandeur . . . which awakens the benevolent heart”: The American Colonization Society’s Effective Marketing in Pennsylvania
    (pp. 43-62)

    As late as the 1820s the gradualists held the loyalty of most of Pennsylvania’s humanitarians, but within a decade the colonizationists managed to find their own niche in Pennsylvania abolition. By 1829 the American Colonization Society would develop the perfect marketing scheme to entice a broad range of Pennsylvania’s white citizens into considering its plan. In desperate need of national support, it saw a chance to capitalize on the conflicting emotions in this border state, which celebrated its antislavery heritage even as it grappled with the tensions created by a growing black immigrant population. Playing on the fears of most...

  9. 3 “Calculated to remove the evils, and increase the happiness of society”: Mathew Carey and the Political and Economic Side of African Colonization
    (pp. 63-92)

    By the end of 1828, the American Colonization Society’s propaganda had caught Mathew Carey’s attention. A noted humanitarian, Carey had devoted considerable energy before and after his retirement from the publishing business to encouraging economic, political, and cultural unity, and his rather sudden embrace of colonization apparently came as a result of reading the Tenth Annual ACS Report (1828), which linked colonization to his own agenda of establishing a modern industrial nation. In addition to emphasizing the unifying aspect of the scheme, the report focused on black population growth, presenting arguments that resonated with this author and publisher, known for...

  10. 4 “We here mean literally what we say”: Elliott Cresson and the Pennsylvania Colonization Society’s Humanitarian Agenda
    (pp. 93-131)

    The October 17, 1835,Colonization Heraldreads like an obituary. Articles celebrating the progress of education and internal improvements in the colony of Liberia are surrounded on all sides by reports of death and destruction. Trusted natives had attacked Bassa Cove on the night of June 10, 1835, and killed about twenty unarmed settlers. A dispatch from nearby Edina begged for assistance from the Liberian capital: “We are at present in a state of war” with only one barrel of powder. As soon as their appeal reached the capital, the Monrovians provided the needed assistance, and together the Liberians laid...

  11. 5 “They will never become a people until they come out from amongst the white people”: James Forten and African American Ambivalence to African Colonization
    (pp. 132-162)

    As white abolitionists sought to help but also to control Pennsylvania’s black population, and colonizationists sought to gain the support of black leaders, the black community continued to blossom in the years leading up to the Civil War, despite a number of challenges. As we saw before, leaders such as Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and James Forten shared a number of the biases of the gradualist generation, and by the 1830s, they too found themselves trying to control the growing free black population. At the same time, they were the first antislavery reformers to have to grapple with the implications...

  12. 6 “A thorough abolitionist could not be such without being a colonizationist”: Benjamin Coates and Black Uplift in the United States and Africa
    (pp. 163-186)

    Even with the rise of the immediatist movement, antislavery colonizationists did not give up easily. From the mid 1830s to the late 1850s the Pennsylvania group continued to use the cause as a vehicle for emancipation. Only in 1857, a year that saw the Supreme Court rule that blacks were not citizens of the United States, did they shift their focus to sending free black Pennsylvanians to Liberia. The fallout from the Dred Scott case affected all sectors of the antislavery movement. In many ways, the worsening racial climate brought new emphasis to the vision of colonization as a means...

  13. 7 “Our elevation must be the result of self-efforts, and work of our own hands”: Martin R. Delany and the Role of Self-Help and Emigration in Black Uplift
    (pp. 187-218)

    Just as the racial climate of the 1850s helped convince white Pennsylvania colonizationists to focus their efforts on gaining free black settlers, it also led a number of free blacks to consider emigration on their own terms. James Forten had died in 1842, but a handful of men from his children’s generation, including Pittsburgh’s Martin R. Delany, began to advocate a black-led back-to-Africa movement much like the one proposed first by Forten and Paul Cuffee and then developed by Benjamin Coates. Like his predecessors, Delany hoped that a successful colony under black leadership would create the conditions for both self-rule...

  14. 8 “Maybe the Devil has got to come out of these people before we will have peace”: Assessing the Successes and Failures of Pennsylvania’s Competing Antislavery Agendas
    (pp. 219-238)

    According to a July 4 sermon delivered by William Henry Ruffner in 1852, Liberia had given blacks a place to succeed, free of racial prejudice, where their talent and merit were indeed recognized. Thanks to the progress of black Americans who were now succeeding in Liberia, “whole nebulae of phrenological speculations and scientific infidelities have thus been dissipated; and there, star-like, shines out the negro intellect, clear and bright.” Black achievement was making it harder and harder for whites to justify slavery. At the same time, the outlet Liberia provided had encouraged many manumissions. Indeed, the years between 1841 and...

  15. Epilogue
    (pp. 239-248)

    What does this story tell us about the relation between antislavery and the end of human bondage? It would seem logical on a superficial glance to assume that the fiery rhetoric of men such as William Lloyd Garrison led to the dissolution of the Union. After all, Garrisonians had been calling for “no union with slaveholders” for decades by the time the war broke out. Because of their more vocal and dramatic tactics, as both Richard Newman and Julie Roy Jeffrey have shown, immediatists did, after all, win the battle for historical memory. Indeed, when most non-historians think about abolition,...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 249-290)
  17. Index
    (pp. 291-296)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 297-297)