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Sat, 12.21.1816

The American Colonization Society is Founded

ACS Certificate

*The American Colonization Society (ACS) was founded on this date in 1816.

Formally called the Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color of America, it was established by Robert Finley.  ACS was officially established at the Davis Hotel in Washington, D.C.  The ACS supported the migration of free American Blacks back to Africa. From 1821 to 1822, the society helped to find a colony on the Pepper Coast of West Africa (Liberia), as a location for free-born or manumitted Blacks from America.

The ACS met with immediate and continuing objections from James Forten and David Walker and other American Blacks who wished to remain in the land of their birth.  They saw the ACS strategy as racist, protecting slavery.  They contended that ACS was purging the U.S. of its Blacks, many of which preferred to fight for equal rights in America. In Africa, colonizers also met resistance and attacks from Black Africans already living in and around the areas being colonized. There was some religious support and missionary efforts were part of the colonization. Disease was a major problem, with Liberian immigrants suffering the highest mortality rates in accurately recorded human history.  Of the 4,571 emigrants who arrived in Liberia from 1820 to 1843, only 1,819 survived until 1843.  

The ACS was formed by groups otherwise opposed to each other on the issue of slavery.  One group was a coalition made up of evangelicals and Quakers who supported abolition of slavery and believed Blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the United States.  The other group was some slaveholders (in the Maryland branch and elsewhere) who saw repatriation as a way to remove free Blacks from slave societies and avoid slave rebellions. 

The two opposed groups found common ground in support of repatriation.  Among the society's supporters were Charles Fenton Mercer, Henry Clay, John Randolph, Francis Scott Key, Richard Bland Lee and Bushrod Washington.  The Society was especially prominent among slaveowners in the Virginia Piedmont region in the 1820s and 1830s. American presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison were among its supporters. James Madison served as the Society's president in the early 1830s.  


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