American Colonization Society: Establishment of a Colony in Liberia (1816-1853)


Source:CIA - The World Fact Book 2002“The roots of the colonization movement date back to various plans first proposed in the eighteenth century. From the start, colonization of free blacks in Africa was an issue on which both whites and blacks were divided. Some blacks supported emigration because they thought that black Americans would never receive justice in the United States. Others believed that African-Americans should remain in the United States to fight against slavery and full rights as American citizens. Some whites saw colonization as a way of riding the nation of blacks, while others believed black Americans would be happier in Africa, where they could live free of racial discrimination. Still others believed black American colonists could play a central role in Christianizing and civilizing Africa.

The American Colonization Society (ACS) was formed in 1817 to send free African-Americans to Africa as an alternative to emancipation in the United States. In 1822, the society established on the west coast of Africa a colony that in 1847 became the independent nation of Liberia. By 1867, the society had sent more than 13,000 emigrants.

Beginning in the 1830s, the society was harshly attacked by abolitionists, who tried to discredit colonization as a slaveholder’s scheme. And, after the Civil War, when many blacks wanted to go to Liberia, financial support for colonization had waned. During its later years the society focused on educational and missionary efforts in Liberia rather than emigration.”

In 1832, the Maryland Assembly “ chartered the Maryland State Colonization Society, established a state board to averse “the Removal of Coloured People,” and set aside $20,000 for 1832 and up to $200,000 over the next twenty years to repatriate all free Negroes who were willing to return to Africa.”

Sources: Colonization: African American Mosaic Exhibition (Library of Congress); Aaron Stopak, “The Maryland State Colonization Society: Independent State Action in the Colonization Movement,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 63 (1968): 280; Robert J. Brugger. Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634-1980, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press with the Maryland Historical Society, 1988. pgs. 212-213.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Standard 4: The sources and character of cultural, religious, and social reform movements in the antebellum period.

Standard 4A: The student understands the abolitionist movement.

7-12: Therefore, the student is able to analyze changing ideas about race and assess the reception of proslavery and antislavery ideologies in the North and South. [Examine the influence of ideas.]
9-12: Therefore, the student is able to compare and contrast the position of African Americans and White abolitionists in the issue of the African American’s place in society. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas.]

Primary Resources

  1. TITLE: Speech of Col. Curtis M. Jacobs on the Free Colored Population of Maryland, Delivered in the House of Delegates on the 17th of February, 1860, Annapolis, Maryland. 
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 17 February 1860 
    SOURCE: Teaching and Research in the Age of the Internet

  2. TITLE: Memoir of Captain Paul Cuffee, A Man of Colour: To Which is Subjoined The Society of Sierra Leone in Africa & etc.
    1912 [1817] York: W. Alexander 
    SOURCE: Colonization: African-American Mosaic Exhibition (Library of Congress) 
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Rare Books and Special Collections Division. 

  3. TITLE: African-American Mosaic: Liberia, Library of Congress
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: January 21, 2003 
    SOURCE: Library of Congress: a web source of many primary documents, photographs, papers, and writings on the founding of Liberia by African Americans. 
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress 

  4. TITLE: Maps of Liberia, American Colonization Society Collection
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: American Memory Project
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

See also:

Additional Media Resources

African-American Mosaic Exhibition (Library of Congress): Liberia and Colonization, has a wealth of information on the subject

CIA – The World Factbook 2002 –Liberia

Secondary Resources


Campbell, Penelope. Maryland in Africa: The Maryland State Colonization Society 1831-1857, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1971). REF A-5-1 1400 

Delaney, M.R. and Robert Campbell. Search for a Place: Black Separatism and Africa 1860, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1969. REF A-5-1 1400

Fox, Early Lee. American Colonization Society, 1817-1840, Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1919. 12-4-2 1400

Hall, Richard. On Africa’s Shore: A History of Maryland in Liberia, 1834-1857, Baltimore, MD: The Maryland Historical Society, 2003.

Lee, John. Maryland in Liberia, Baltimore, MD: The Maryland Historical Society, 1885.

Smith, James Wesley. Sojourners in Search of Freedom: The Settlement of Liberia by Black Americans, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987. 12-4-2 1400

Staudenraus, Philip J. The African Colonization Movement: 1816-1865, New York: Columbia University Press, 1961.

Books for Children

Gilfond, Henry. Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, New York: Franklyn Watts, 1981.

Humphrey, Sally. A Family in Liberia, Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Company, 1987.

Schloat, G. Warren, Jr. DUEE: A Boy of Liberia, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.

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Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Donna R. Omata.


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