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Colonization and Its Discontents

Emancipation, Emigration, and Antislavery in Antebellum Pennsylvania

Beverly Tomek

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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p. xi

List of Abbreviations

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p. xii

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pp. xiii-xxiii

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...

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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...

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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

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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...

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2. “A certain simple grandeur . . . which awakens the benevolent heart”: The American Colonization Society’s Effective Marketing in Pennsylvania

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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...

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3. “Calculated to remove the evils, and increase the happiness of society”: Mathew Carey and the Political and Economic Side of African Colonization

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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...

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4. “We here mean literally what we say”: Elliott Cresson and the Pennsylvania Colonization Society’s Humanitarian Agenda

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pp. 93-131

The October 17, 1835, Colonization Herald reads 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...

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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

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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...

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6. “A thorough abolitionist could not be such without being a colonizationist”: Benjamin Coates and Black Uplift in the United States and Africa

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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...

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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

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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...

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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

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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...

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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...


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pp. 249-290


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pp. 291-296

About the Author

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p. 297

E-ISBN-13: 9780814784433
E-ISBN-10: 0814784437
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814783481
Print-ISBN-10: 0814783481

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 774955957
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Colonization and Its Discontents

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Slaves -- Emancipation -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Antislavery movements -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society -- History.
  • Free African Americans -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Pennsylvania Colonization Society -- History.
  • Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery -- History.
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