The "Negro" College
The Town Meeting
The Committee Opposed
Why It Failed
Why It Mattered
Yale & the South


Colonization was a movement, gaining in popularity in the 1830s, to send black people to Africa.

In the North, colonization was billed as a moderate anti-slavery approach: Slaves should be freed, but the difficulties posed by racial integration would best be avoided by sending freed slaves to Africa.

In the South, however, colonization was billed as a "neutral" option for dealing with the "problem" of the increasing black population in America.

Some considered it anti-slavery; some did not. Even Henry Clay, himself a prominent Southern slave owner, supported colonization largely as a means of avoiding insurrections (121) .

The most prominent Yale officials supporting colonization were:

  • Jeremiah Day -- Yale's President (1817-1846) and a Vice President of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1831-1832, when the "Negro college" dispute occurred (122).
  • Benjamin Silliman -- The first faculty scientist at Yale, from 1806-1864, and the co-founder in 1827, with Leonard Bacon, of the Connecticut Colonization Society (123). His July 4, 1832 sermon, in which he supported the rejection of the "Negro college," was also a sermon about the importance of colonizing black people to Africa.
  • Leonard Bacon -- New Haven's most important pro-colonization rhetorician and leader, the pastor of Center Church on the Green, and a Yale Corporation member.
  • David Daggett -- Yale's Kent Professor of Law, and a leader of the movement against the "Negro college," was also a prominent colonizationist.
  • Simeon Baldwin -- Together with Daggett, a leader of the movement against the "Negro college," and a leader of the colonizationist movement.

In many ways, colonization was merely an ill-fated, inadequate response to an extreme evil. Its southern supporters were upset to discover the anti-slavery colonizationist literature from the North. Its Northern supporters were upset to discover the uses to which southern slave owners put colonization, such as sending black leaders to Africa so as to retain a more docile slave force.

The colonizationist arguments played an important role in the budding disputes over educational opportunities for African Americans.

On the one hand, abolitionists, who opposed colonization, supported education for African-Americans as a means to promote integration and end racial prejudice. Simeon Jocelyn explained, after the "Negro college" had been stopped in New Haven:

If we ever expect to see the influence of prejudice decrease, and ourselves respected, it must be by the blessings of an enlightened education. It must be by being in possession of the classical knowledge which promotes genius, and causes man to soar up to those high intellectual enjoyments and acquirements, which places him in a situation, to shed upon a country and a people, that scientific grandeur which is imperishable by time, and drowns in oblivion's cup their moral degradation. Those who think that our primary schools are capable of effecting this, are a century behind the age ... If we wish to be respected, we must build our moral character, on a base as broad and high as our nation itself. (124)

On the other hand, colonizationists often opposed education for free black people. New Haven's Religious Intelligencer reported in July 1831, before the town meeting, that any attempt to raise the status of black people, "whether by founding colleges, or in any other way, [tended] to counteract and thwart the whole plan of colonization" (125). Education helped to integrate free black people into American society. Integration made it less important, and more difficult, to send black people to Africa (126).

Colonization was a moderate response to slavery. Those who could not abide moderation in the face of slavery-especially free black people and abolitionists-could not abide colonization. Whatever we think of such moderation, however, one fact is clear: Colonizationist arguments were used against efforts to

Black Response to Colonization

"The Liberator"
Many African-Americans hated the American Colonization Society and everything it represented. In 1832, a chastened Philadelphia Convention of the Free People of Colour said:

The doctrines of [the American Colonization] Society ... should be regarded by every man of color in these United States, as an evil for magnitude, unexcelled, and whose doctrines aim at the entire extinction of the free colored population and the riviting of Slavery. (129)

In 1834, the Philadelphia Convention continued its protests, saying of colonizationists:

They have resorted to every artifice to effect their purposes. By exciting in the minds of the white community the fears of insurrection and amalgamation; By petitioning state legislatures to grant us no favors; By petitioning congress to aid in sending us away; By using their influence to prevent the establishment of seminaries for our instruction in the higher branches of education.

Each of these "artifices" took place in Connecticut between 1831 and 1835. Perhaps this is why Tappan would say that the colonization society was "a device of Satan and owes its existence to the single motive to perpetuate slavery" (130).


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The Black


Numbers in parentheses refer to notes. See the notes page.