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Nationalism: a demonized solution to enduring problems

The colonization effort resulted from a mixture of motives. Free blacks, freedmen and their descendants, encountered widespread discrimination in the United States of the early 19th century. They were generally perceived as a burden on society and a threat to white workers because they undercut wages. Some abolitionists believed that blacks could not achieve equality in the United States and would be better off in Africa. Many slaveholders were worried that the presence of free blacks would encourage slaves to rebel.

Despite being antislavery, Society members were openly racist and frequently argued that free blacks would be unable to assimilate into the white society of this country. John Randolph, one famous slave owner, called free blacks "promoters of mischief."[11] At this time, about 2 million African Americans lived in America of which 200,000 were free persons of color (with legislated limits).[2] Henry Clay, a congressman from Kentucky who was critical of the negative impact slavery had on the southern economy, saw the movement of blacks as being preferable to emancipation in America, believing that "unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off".[12] Clay argued that because blacks could never be fully integrated into U.S. society due to "unconquerable prejudice" by white Americans, it would be better for them to emigrate to Africa.[12]

Finley suggested at the inaugural meeting of an African Society that a colony be established in Africa to take free people of color, most of whom had been born free, away from the United States. Rev. Finley meant to colonize "(with their consent) the free people of color residing in our country, in Africa, or such other place as Congress may deem most expedient." The organization established branches throughout the United States. It was instrumental in the establishment of the colony of Liberia.


Abraham Lincoln was a supporter of this society.

Its goal was repatriation and separation. These two were indivisible in its outlook.

The point was to fix the problem, not force "tolerance" on two disparate groups.