198 Years Ago today, the First African Colonization Ship Sailed

John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
Right from its beginning, the American Colonization Society was a curious mix of racism and benevolence: a society of abolitionists and slave owners who agreed on only one thing: it was better to take blacks from America and return them to Africa.

Many A.C.S. members were Quakers and almost all opposed slavery and abhorred the slave trade. They genuinely believed blacks would never be integrated into mainstream white America and could better find happiness and prosperity in Africa. While they primarily brought free blacks to Africa, they also paid slave owners to liberate slaves and gave them passage to Africa as well. But, other A.C.S. members were slave owners who feared the presence of free blacks would encourage slave revolts, and worried their example would encourage runaways.

It was an early, fumbling, ineffective step at answering America's persistent problem of race. It's easy to condemn them today, after two centuries of wrestling with morality, conscience, economics, and human nature. They hadn't the benefit of such hindsight.

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