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Collection African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection


From its earliest years, the American Colonization Society (A. C. S.) drew sharp criticism, from both blacks and whites, for its efforts to resettle free African Americans in Liberia. Many believed colonization was a scheme to perpetuate slavery. This three-part tract, published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, offers a critical view of the A. C. S.

Colonization. Octavius Brooks Frothingham (New York, ca. 1855)

In the opening text, Northern clergyman Octavius Brooks Frothingham charges: "the object of this wholesale banishment of the free blacks is the security of the slave system." He backs his claim with a list of "proofs" and numerous quotes from the A. C. S. journal, the African Repository, and the society's leading members, including statesman Henry Clay.

Frothingham's argument is followed by an 1833 denunciation of the A. C. S. by British abolitionists. This "protest" declares the A. C. S.'s claims of promoting abolition "delusive" and the organization unworthy of British support.

The tract closes with a British philanthropist's description of how he "became deceived in regard to the real character and designs" of the A. C. S. This testimony is excerpted from an 1840 letter to William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society and a fierce opponent of colonization. Garrison's abolition society welcomed many former members of the A. C. S. and also enjoyed the support of most free African-American leaders.

The Duty of a Rising Christian State to Contribute to the World's Well-Being and Civilization, and the Means by Which it May Perform the Same. Alexander Crummell (Boston, 1857)

Alexander Crummell was one of the prominent African Americans to promote the colonization and development of Liberia. The noted scholar, teacher, and clergyman resided in Liberia from 1853 to 1872.

In this 1855 speech, delivered in Monrovia on the eighth anniversary of Liberia's independence, Crummell focuses on the "solidarity of nations" and the "duty" of Liberia to contribute to the world's well-being and civilization by increasing commerce, trade, and missionary work. To meet this obligation, he calls for the "cultivation" of the nation's citizens and the development of its natural resources.

The themes of kinship, education, and advancement presented in this speech appear throughout Crummell's influential work. Until his death in 1898, he spoke passionately of the need for skilled and educated blacks from all nations to Christianize and civilize Africa. To support the scholarship of African-American male intellectuals, he cofounded the American Negro Academy in Washington, D.C., in 1897. He also founded and served as pastor of Washington's St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Among Crummell's protégés was the educator and author W. E. B. DuBois.