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Mon, 01.04.1858

The African Civilization Society is Formed

African Civilization Society (Preamble)

*On this date in 1858, The African Civilization Society is celebrated. This emigration organization was founded by several prominent members of the historic Weeksville community in New York City.

The organization was intended to promote emigration to Liberia, which gained independence in 1847, and create a competing "free-labor" cotton industry with the slavery-based cotton industries of the United States. In part, the emphasis on emigration was prompted by great disappointment about the US Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which ruled that blacks had no standing as citizens in the country. This decision resulted in the disenfranchisement of many taxes paying, landowning, and successful black and African American professionals and entrepreneurs.

While its philosophy was similar in some ways to the "Emigration to Africa" concept of such 19th-century groups as the American Colonization Society, the African Civilization Society was founded and led exclusively by Blacks or Blacks. "The Society is composed of ministers and gentlemen of known and tried integrity..." including Henry Highland Garnet, Martin Delany, Junius C. Morel, Rev. R. H. Cain, Rev. A. A. Constantine, Robert Campbell, Theodore Cuyler (white American), George W. LeVere, James Myres, James Morris Williams, Peter Williams, Rev. Amos N. Freeman, Rufus L. Perry, John Sella Martin, Henry H. Wilson, and many others.  "Self-Reliance and Self-Government on the Principle of an African Nationality..." was featured as a founding value statement in the original constitution of the society.

Following the American Civil War and the emancipation of slaves, the organization's mission shifted to providing basic needs to freed people. The Society raised funds to establish schools and sent some 129 teachers to the South to take up educating the freedmen. The institution was also known for printing two publications circulating among communities of Blacks, a monthly called the Freedman's Torchlight and a weekly called the People's Journal.   

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