Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Wendy Hamand


This thesis analyzes the accusations made by William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society, against the American Colonization Society. The charges were based upon his publication Thoughts on African Colonization published in 1832. In the book, he insisted that the Colonization Society fostered ineffectiveness, insincerity, and inconsistency. Because of the Society's ineptitude, he regarded it as a proslavery faction dedicated to racial segregation.

The paper will focus on two important questions. First, was the Colonization Society an antislavery organization? Second, was its objective to aid free blacks or to rid America of the black race.

From hindsight, it is ludicrous to maintain that one individual has the right to own another. Yet, by the end of the American Revolution, slavery had already became entrenched in the country. Around the turn of the 19th Century, many Americans began to ask what was to be done about slavery?

Although efforts to solve the inquiry were made by the Quakers, it was evident to many concerned citizens that a strong national movement was needed. In 1816, men from both north and south met in Washington, D.C., examined the problem and founded the American Colonization Society. While dedicated to colonizing freedmen in Africa, members also hoped to encourage slaveowners to emancipate by offering emigration as an incentive. Within six years, the Society established the colony of Liberia. As members labored to improve colonial conditions, a different philosophy evolved among northern radicals. Abolitionists, led by Garrison, demanded that slavery end immediately without colonization. Because the two factions approached a similar issue with contrasting ideologies, conflict was inevitable.

Although Garrison leveled numerous charges against the American Colonization Society, there is strong evidence that, while conservative, the Society hoped to eliminate slavery in a peaceful manner. In addition, colonizationists genuinely sought to aid the freedmen who suffered discrimination. Members of the Society felt that black emigration to Africa would solve the race problem. Although their solution may sound racist as well as naive, Garrisonian abolitionists were equally naive in their belief that freedom meant equality.

After Garrison discredited the American Colonization Society, it became a private emigration bureau. Ironically, following the Civil War, some black leaders promoted their own colonization movements and contacted the Society for information. Considering the Jim Crow laws passed during and after Reconstruction, colonization in the 20th Century became synoymous with developing a black nationality.