THE NEGRO REPATRIATION MOVEMENT
I asked, where is the black man's government? Where is his president, his country, and his ambassadors, his army, his navy, and his men of big affairs? I could not find them and then I declared, I will help make them. - Marcus Garvey (1)FOR A number of years before the organization of the American Colonization Society in 1817, the purpose of which was to promote a program of Negro repatriation, Thomas Jefferson was active in advising and encouraging his fellow Americans to adopt a plan to bring about the physical separation of the white and black races. We have already referred to some of Jefferson's statements in the previous chapter and it is a fact of special significance that the author of the Declaration of Independence was the first American of great Importance to aid in a scheme to resettle American Negroes in a land of their own.
In 1777, Jefferson was chairman of a committee of the General Assembly of Virginia which reported favorably on a measure for the emancipation and colonization of the slaves in that state. The terms of the bill provided for the acquisition of territory and gradual colonization of the Negroes in a land of their own. The plan was to send young men of twenty-one and young women of eighteen to the colony where they would be cared for until they could become established. Later, when he was President of the United States, Jefferson continued to be interested in obtaining territory which would be suitable for a settlement of Negroes; and he tried to secure the consent of Sierra Leone, a small country on the west coast of Africa, to receive Negro emigrants from the United States. But the Nation was young during the days of Jefferson, and the institution of slavery was destined to remain for many years. Jefferson knew that the removal of American Negroes to Africa or elsewhere would be a Herculean task, and as he approached the sunset of his life, he realized that the work could not be accomplished in his time. In a letter written to Jared Sparks on February 4, 1824, the father of the Democratic Party stated some of the benefits of colonization and admonished the Americans who were to come after him to see that the program was carried out. He said:
The article on the African colonization of the people of color, to which you invite my attention, I have read with great consideration. It is, indeed, a fine one and will do much good. I learn from it more, too, than I had before known of the degree of success and promise of that colony. In the disposition of this unfortunate people, there are two rational objects to be distinctly kept in view. First, the establishment of a colony on the coast of Africa, which may introduce among the aborigines the arts of cultivated life and the blessings of civilization and science. By doing this we may make to them some retribution for the long course of injuries we have been committing on their population.... The second object, and the most interesting to us, as coming home to our physical and moral characters, to our happiness and safety, is to provide an asylum to which we can, by degrees, send the whole of that population from among us and establish them, under our patronage and protection, as a separate, free, and independent people in some country and climate friendly to human life and happiness .... I do not go into all the details of the burdens and benefits of this operation. And who could estimate its blessed effects. I leave this to those who will live to see their accomplishment, and to enjoy a beatitude forbidden to my age. But I leave it with this admonition-TO RISE AND BE DOING. (Jefferson's Works, vol. 7, p. 332.)There are two other men who should be mentioned as supporting the repatriation plan before the movement finally brought the American Colonization Society into formation. One was William Thornton, a philanthropist, who lived in Washington and who believed that the race problem should be permanently solved by the physical separation of the races.
Although he proposed the resettlement of all people of color in Africa, the home of their fathers, his efforts did not take the shape of a definite movement.
The other man was a Negro, Paul Cuffe, who succeeded in obtaining the consent of Sierra Leone to receive free American Negroes. This was the project in which Jefferson had been interested. A native of Massachusetts, Cuffe was a sailor on a whaling vessel at the age of sixteen. He became captain of his own vessel, acquired other vessels, a ship, two brigs, smaller boats and property in lands and houses. After he became interested in Negro repatriation, he sailed to Sierra Leone with a crew of Negro seamen In 1811, he made arrangements for this small west African country to receive Negro emigrants from the United States; in 1815, he carried at his own expense a ship load of free Negroes from Massachusetts to Sierra Leone. Paul Cuffe died in 1817, the very year when the American Colonization Society was organized in Washington, and white Americans adopted a program to assist Negro repatriation.
The stated purpose of the American Colonization Society was to carry on a program of repatriation for American Negroes. The members of this organization knew that land would have to be acquired upon which to settle the Negro emigrants from the United States and that ways and means of transportation as well as temporary maintenance would have to be provided. They further realized that the task was far beyond the powers of this organization unless aid was given by the Federal Government. It was their purpose to begin the work of repatriation, enlisting government aid and cooperation until such a time as the Federal Government would take over the movement.
The American Colonization Society was composed of one of the most distinguished groups of American citizens ever assembled in any organization in our history. Bushrod Washington was the first President. Among the nationally known men who were members of this Society were Francis Scott Key, John Randolph, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison,
James Monroe, Charles Fenton Mercer, John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln, and a long line of other prominent men and women.
Not many years after the Society was organized, Rufus King proposed to the United States Senate that proceeds from the sale of public lands, with the exception of the amount needed to meet certain obligations, be set aside by the Government to aid in a scheme of Negro colonization. As private citizens, James Madison and John Marshall agreed with the supporters of the King proposal. But the power of the slave states and others who opposed emancipation and colonization of the slaves defeated the first attempts to have the Federal Government take over the repatriation movement.
At a time when the Colonization Society was without strength to obtain land and colonize American Negroes, Charles Fenton Mercer, a member of Congress who belonged to the organization, devised means of obtaining aid from the Federal Government. Mercer had been interested in Negro repatriation long before he was elected to Congress. As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, he had introduced a resolution requesting the President of the United States to obtain land for a colony for free Negroes and for slaves who would later be made free. The General Assembly of Virginia passed the memorial in December, 1816.
When he became a member of Congress, Mercer's first move toward the repatriation of the American Negroes was to strike at the slave trade. The Anti-Slave Act of March 3, 1819 initiated and engineered through Congress by Mercer, contained an appropriation of funds which was to be used to return to Africa slaves who had been illegally brought to the United States. When the time came to execute the provisions of this act, Mercer went to President Monroe and pointed out that if the unfortunate captives should be returned to the coast of Africa and released, as the act provided, there was the probability that they would again be sold as slaves and eventually returned to the United States. President Monroe was favorably impressed with this reasoning, and he decided to acquire lands on the west coast of Africa on which illegally imported slaves to the United States could be settled and cared for by the Federal Government. Cooperating with the American Colonization Society, President Monroe sent agents to acquire this territory. Sam J. Mills and E. Burgess were directed by the Society to proceed to West Africa and report on their findings. The reports of these men justified the Society in proceeding further with its colonization movement, and two years later the first group of eighty-eight Negroes sailed from this country to the African coast. They were in charge of three white Americans, named Bacon, Bankson, and Crozer. Crozer was the agent for the Colonization Society and Reverend Sam Bacon was the agent of the United States Government. This was the first step in acquiring the land now called Liberia, the capital of which is Monrovia, named for President Monroe.
Mercer did not stop when the Anti-Slave Act of 1819 had been passed. In 1820, he secured the passage of a measure which declared that citizens of the United States engaged in slave trade should be adjudged pirates and upon conviction would suffer death. In 1830, Congress published a volume of 293 pages dealing with the efforts made by Mercer to suppress slave trade and to bring about Negro repatriation. It has been said to the credit of Mercer: "There is no portion of the African Continent now under political control of Negro people save that portion reserved for them principally through the labor of Mercer."
During the time when Mercer was trying to carry out a program of repatriation, there were some 200,000 free persons of color scattered throughout the Nation. The members of the American Colonization Society thought that if a colony of 200,000 freed Negroes of the United States could be established in Africa, they might with the aid and care of this Nation become a self-supporting community and prepare a home for the other Negroes in America who were then slaves but who would eventually be given their freedom. The next year after the first ship of eighty-eight Negroes sailed for the African coast, the ship Nautilus, chartered by the United States Government, carried a second group of Negro emigrants to their fatherland. Again, they were accompanied by government agents and two officials of the Colonization Society.
In 1821, Dr. Eli Ayres was appointed chief agent of the Colonization Society, and he proceeded to Cape Montserrado, the site of the present city of Monrovia. He succeeded in acquiring the whole of the Montserrado promontory, and all the emigrants were transferred to the newly acquired territory. There, they made good their final occupancy.
When Dr. Ayres returned to Washington, the Society selected a Negro, Jehudi Ashmum, to serve with the Negro emigrants in Africa. He sailed for the colony in the brig Strong, taking charge of the settlement upon his arrival in August, 1822. Ashmum was an able administrator and to him is due much of the credit for the development of the colony of Liberia. As a representative of the Colonization Society, as an administrator and a leader of men, Jehudi Ashmum won for himself a place of highest importance in Liberian history.
When Ashmum returned to the United States, he placed the Reverend Lott Cary in charge of the administration of the colony until his successor could be appointed by the Society. Reverend Cary remained in charge until the arrival of Dr. R. Randall, who was named chief administrative agent. During the administration of Dr. Randall when the number of emigrants reached 3,000, it was decided that the time had come for the appointment of a governor for the colony.
The first Governor of Liberia was a white American named Thomas Buchanan. He was succeeded by a Virginia mulatto, J. J. Roberts, who was confirmed by the Society. During the administration of Roberts, Liberia continued to grow in size and importance. Realizing the need for funds in the treasury to carry on the administrative duties, Roberts imposed a six per cent ad valorem duty on goods imported into Liberia. Foreigners refused to pay this duty on the ground that Liberia was a colony, an experiment of a philanthropic society which was incompetent to exercise sovereign rights such as levying duties on imports. Upon inquiry the United States Government stated that it had no intention of assuming the responsibilities of a protectorate of the colony, and the American Colonization Society decided that the colony was now able to continue on its own. Thus, the bonds which had held the colony to the Society for so many years were severed. With unfaltering faith and courage, the Liberian authorities called a convention and on the 26th day of July 1847, a declaration of independence was adopted.
In the meantime, the program for Negro repatriation was having hard sailing in the United States. During the early years of the Colonization Society, the members had high hopes of resettling American Negroes in Africa if governmental aid could be obtained. When it was contended that aid by the Federal Government for this movement would be a violation of the rights of the sovereign states, the state of Ohio came forward to propose a program of repatriation known as the Ohio Plan. The Legislature of Ohio, through the Governor, requested that the governors of the other states submit to their respective legislatures a plan by which the free states, with the approval of the slave states, would begin a program of emancipation and colonization of all slaves. This plan, which provided for the continuation of slavery while repatriation was being carried out, deemed slaves who would not volunteer to return to their fatherland to establish a country of their own to be unworthy of freedom.
The free states accepted the Ohio Plan, but the slave states rejected it. It has been claimed by an outstanding author that this disagreement over Negro repatriation was the first major division between the North and the South. We do know that when the Southern states refused approval, the Ohio Plan was abandoned, and another attempt at Negro colonization with a white America as the goal met with failure.
Soon after the rejection of the Ohio Plan. William Lloyd Garrison and his abolitionists moved into the limelight. Garrison, once a member of the American Colonization Society, now made a vicious attack on the organization, claiming that it was merely an instrument of the slave power for removing troublesome free Negroes from the country and from the presence of the slaves. He charged that the real purpose of the Society was to make secure the bondage over the Africans who were already in slavery. On the other hand, the slave power launched an attack on the Colonization Society, charging that it was collaborating with the Garrisonian Abolitionists. The combination of attacks by Garrison and the slave states would surely have destroyed the organization had it not been supported and defended by some of the most eminent men in the Nation.
Garrison and the slave power limited the activities of the Colonization Society, but they could not destroy it. When this group relinquished control of Liberia in 1847, to the American Negroes and their children residing there, they reserved substantial portions of this country for the settlement of future emigrants from the United States and planned to continue colonization in spite of attacks from within the Nation. Some 12,000 emigrants had gone to Liberia when the War Between the States interrupted the activities of the Colonization Society.
The War Between the States succeeded in suspending the work of the Society, but it was the Reconstruction period following the War which almost destroyed the organization. During this dark era of our history, reconstruction politicians urged the Negroes to relinquish all plans for setting up a country of their own in Africa or elsewhere. In 1870, agents of the Society toured the South and reported to the officials of the organization in Washington that unscrupulous politicians were causing the Negroes to abandon the idea of establishing a Negro nation on some foreign land and urging them to remain in this country to take over the lands and wealth of their former masters.
Not only did those in charge of the Federal Government fail to give approval to the idea of removing the freed Negroes from this country, but they succeeded in making them citizens of the United States and bestowing upon them the right to vote. When Senators Stevens and Sumner were holding forth in the United States Senate, the idea of full racial equality was replacing the repatriation program. Without a doubt, the Civil Rights Acts passed by the Congress in 1866, 1870, and amended in 1871 and 1875, mark the highest point which negrophilism has ever reached in this country. The sole intent of these measures was to level the black and white races. Charles Sumner believed in the necessity of equalizing the two races and on his death bed he is reported to have said to Senator Hoar: "You must take care of the Civil Rights Bill - my bill - the Civil Rights Bill - don't let it fail." This law had as its purpose the abolition of the color line in the South; it purported to give to Negroes the full and equal privileges of hotels, street cars, trains, and other modes of transportation by land and water, of theaters and other places of public amusement. However, it did not contain the provision urged by Sumner for the destruction of the color line in churches, schools, and cemeteries. This infamous attempt to level the races and mongrelize the Nation was killed by the Supreme Court of the United States. When the highest tribunal in the land intervened on behalf of the Caucasian race, the tide of negrophilism began to wane.
These post-war attempts to destroy the colonization movement and to make the Negro the equal of the white man were in direct contradiction to the ideals and plans of Abraham Lincoln. The Great Emancipator lived to see the War ended and the Union saved, but an assassin's bullet took his life as he stood on the threshold of reconstructing the South and forever solving the race problem. Throughout his career of public service he was a student of the Negro problem, and on numerous occasions he announced his approval of the plan of physical separation of the races. He believed that the only adequate solution of the race problem was to colonize American Negroes at some place or places outside the United States. In fact, the emancipation proclamation proclaimed the continuation of the plan of colonization as well as freedom for the slaves.
Lincoln was just as interested in settling the Negroes in a country of their own, somewhere outside the United States, as he was in freeing them. Freedom was a war measure which he accomplished, but colonization was a post-war measure which he did not live to complete. Most of our great historians seem to have ignored Lincoln's plan for colonization, but it is a fact which can not be denied. These ideals of Lincoln have been thoroughly recognized by Carter G. Woodson, probably the most outstanding of the Negro historians. In his book, The Negro in Our History, Woodson says that Negroes of this generation severely criticize Abraham Lincoln because of his delay in bringing about the emancipation of the slaves. Many of these Negroes who are today considered the intelligentsia of the race ridicule Lincoln's expressed opinion of the black race and laugh at the reference to him as the "Great Emancipator." According to Woodson, Sumner and Stevens urged Lincoln to free the slaves immediately, but he had little patience with these abolitionists who worried him about the "d----d niggers."
Lincoln often said that he would save this Union with slavery or without slavery, but that his primary objective was to save the Union. He could not easily accept immediate emancipation, since he had long anticipated gradual emancipation which would not be completed until 1900. His plan also provided for compensation to the slave owners.
Woodson further acknowledges that after the slaves were freed, Lincoln's viewpoint was still far from liberal. He was practically forced to admit Negro soldiers in the Union Army and did not wish to give them the same pay and treatment which the white soldiers received. He repeatedly said that if the Negroes were liberated, they should be colonized abroad since they could not hope to remain in this country on terms of social and political equality with the white man.
We have already referred to Lincoln's attitude toward the Negro and his colonization plan in Chapters III and XIV, but no discussion of the repatriation program would be complete without references to two more of Lincoln's speeches. The first of these passages comes from his address on Henry Clay. For many years, Lincoln was an admirer and devoted friend of Clay and upon the death of the Kentuckian in 1832, he delivered an eloquent memorial address. Concerning the efforts of the renowned Henry Clay for colonization, Lincoln said:
The American Colonization Society was organized in 1816. Mr Clay, though not its projector, was one of its earliest members; and he died, as for many preceding years he had been, its president. It was one of the most cherished objects of his direct care and consideration, and the association of his name with it has probably been its very greatest collateral support. He considered it no demerit in the society that it tended to relieve the slaveholders from the troublesome presence of the free negroes; but this was far from being its whole merit in his estimation. In the same speech from which we have quoted he says: 'There is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her children, whose ancestors have been torn from her by the ruthless hand of fraud and violence. Transplanted in a foreign land, they will carry back to their native soil the rich fruits of religion civilization, law and liberty. May it not be one of the great designs of the Ruler of the universe, whose ways are often inscrutable by shortsighted mortals, thus to transform an original crime into a signal blessing to that most unfortunate portion of the globe?' This suggestion of the possible ultimate redemption of the African race and African continent was made twenty-five years ago. Every succeeding year has added strength to the hope of its realization. May it indeed be realized! Pharaoh's country was cursed with plagues, and his hosts were lost in the Red Sea, for striving to retain a captive people who had already served them more than four hundred years. May like disasters never befall us! If, as the friends of colonization hope, the present and coming generations of our countrymen shall by any means succeed in freeing our land from the dangerous presence of slavery and at the same time in restoring a captive people to their long-lost fatherland with bright prospects for the future, and this too so gradual]y that neither races nor individuals shall have suffered by the change, it will indeed be a glorious consummation. And if to such a consummation the efforts of Mr. Clay shall have contributed, it will be what he most ardently wished, and none of his labors will have been more valuable to this country and his kind.On August 14, 1862, Lincoln spoke to an assembled group of free Negroes in the White House. In this speech which embodied clear-evidence of Lincoln's views on the Negro and his reasons for advocating colonization, he said:
You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. Your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason, at least, why we should be separated. You here are freemen, I suppose?If any answer was ever given by the Negro men to Lincoln's appeal, it was not recorded. The President himself was thoroughly occupied with the winning of the War, but he continued his efforts toward colonization by embodying these ideals in the Emancipation Proclamation and by making recommendations to the Congress. However, upon his death in April, 1865, Lincoln's plans were cast aside and replaced by the schemes of Stevens and Sumner for the equalization of the white and black races.
Even the Reconstruction program for complete equality did not succeed in killing the colonization movement. The American Colonization Society has remained in existence and kept its ideals alive for almost one hundred and forty years. The campaign for racial equality in this Nation has submerged the activities of repatriation since the War Between the States, but the time is coming when the objective of this Society - a white America - will be accomplished.
One of the leading advocates of repatriation during the Reconstruction era and the years following was a Negro, Henry M. Turner, who was born of free parents in Abbeyville, South Carolina, in 1834. As a youth he worked for a group of lawyers who aided him in obtaining an education and he became a Methodist minister. While in Washington during the War Between the States, Turner attracted the attention of President Lincoln, who appointed him chaplain of the first Negro troops used in the Federal Army. After the war, he continued in politics and worked to build up his church organization. He was a delegate to the Georgia Constitutional Convention in 1867, a member of the State Legislature, and in 1869 was appointed postmaster of Macon upon recommendation of Senator Charles Sumner. However, he resigned this post shortly thereafter. He became Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Georgia and for twelve years was head of the Negro School in Atlanta, which is now Morris Brown University. He visited Africa a number of times, introducing Methodism on that continent.
Bishop Turner knew that the race question was much deeper than the surface question of slavery. He knew the problems would continue as long as the races remained in contact. It was his contention that the Negro would more likely obtain four hundred acres and an hippopotamus in Africa than forty acres and a mule in the United States. He refused to accept the arguments of those who advised the Negro to remain in this country and profit by the achievements of the whites. It was his belief that racial initiative was a prerequisite for racial progress, and in this regard he observed that the black man would be better off in Hell than in America.
At a time when the white politicians in charge of the Federal Government and most of the Negro leaders were telling the masses of Negroes that the two races would be made equal in this country, Bishop Turner rose above the crowd to understand the current activities and to foresee the future. He saw the Negro freed, made a citizen, and given the right to vote, but he knew this was a fleeting and incomplete victory for the colored man. He saw through the reconstruction politicians and understood that as long as the negro remained in the united states - as long as negro women bore negro children - the race would suffer discrimination and inequality in this country. With prophetic vision, he told his people that the only permanent solution to their problems was to return to the home of their forefathers to establish a country of their own.
During the last years of Bishop Turner's life, no doubt he realized more than ever before the necessity of the physical separation of the races. He saw the triumph of white supremacy in the South and witnessed the hardships and trials of his people. As an old man, he wrote the letter to William P. Pickett which has been referred to in the previous chapter. This aged religious leader knew that his own work was about finished, and he said to Mr. Pickett: "I pray God that you will continue in the great work in which you are engaged, and move this country to help the Negro to emigrate to the land of his ancestors.... Give us a line of steamers..., and the Negro will leave by thousands and tens of thousands, yes, by millions."
Following the death of Bishop Henry M. Turner, Marcus Garvey a Negro born in Jamaica, took up the movement of repatriation. Authorities who have devoted effective study to the efforts of Garvey relate that he was a man of good education who brooded long during his youth over the dis- advantages suffered by his race. After coming to the United States, he organized a Universal Negro Improvement Association, which stressed the importance of economic progress, blood integrity, and race nationality. This organization became international, and it has been said that during the course of his activities, Garvey developed into the most powerful and effective advocate of race nationality that this country has ever seen. He organized a vast empire of workers devoted to his program of repatriation, and his organization reported a total membership of 6,000,000. Rallying men and women to the slogan, "Africa for Africans," he preached to his world-wide followers that black men should return to Africa, the home of their ancestors, where they could establish a nation of their own.
Garvey's organization was colossal and spectacular. He succeeded in attracting the attention of the American press, but he found the recognized Negro leaders in the United States opposed to him and to his program. He was attacked on every hand by Negroes who believed in amalgamation and who opposed any form of repatriation. But in spite of opposition among the Negro leaders, Negro organizations, and some white groups, Garvey succeeded in rallying the Negro masses to his program. He appealed to their imagination and aroused their sense of racial pride and integrity. "I asked" said Garvey, "where is the black man's government? Where is his president, his country, and his ambassadors, his army, his navy, and his men of big affairs? I could not find them and then I declared, I will help make them."
Garvey made an effort to finance the Black Star Line of steamships to be used to carry Negro emigrants back to Africa and to develop trade among Negro people. This unfortunate enterprise resulted in the temporary arresting of his repatriation program, for he was convicted of having fraudulently used the mails to sell stock in the Black Star Line. His conviction took place just before the economic collapse known as the depression. The judge who presided at the trial referred to Garvey as an impractical dreamer and considered it necessary to protect innocent Negroes against the schemes of this repatriation idealist. It may be true that this Negro leader sold stock in the Black Star Line which went to pieces as a financial investment, but it is also true that other men, men who have been called practical, have sold worthless stock. President Coolidge commuted Garvey's sentence, but since he was an alien he was automatically exiled from the United States. Removed from the mass of his followers in this country, he was unable to carry on his program of repatriation.
The most significant thing about the achievements of Garvey is that notwithstanding the collapse of his colonization movement at the height of its popularity, notwithstanding his conviction, imprisonment and deportation, the movement he had originated did not die with the passing of the founder. The chief value of his labors lay in the quickening of a race consciousness and in the birth of a new hope for racial integrity and nationality. He definitely succeeded in establishing the fact that there is an overmastering impulse, a divine afflatus among the masses of Negroes in the United States for a country of their own and a government administered by themselves. Without a doubt, Garvey was the most conspicious of all the organizers of his race.
The longing for economic freedom and progress, the yearning for the establishment of Negro nationality, the burning desire to make secure racial integrity which Garvey had implanted in the souls of millions of Negroes in the United States survived after he had gone from these shores. Garvey's thunderous words, "Up, you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will," were still echoing in the ears of his followers when another repatriation movement was organized. The new organization had a single ideal - to return people of African descent to their fatherland, Africa. This group, called the Peace Movement of Ethiopia, prepared a memorial for presentation to President Roosevelt asking for the return of American Negroes to their fatherland, Africa. The following extracts are from the memorial:
....The signatories pay no dues or other fees and the officers of the Peace Movement of Ethiopia serve entirely without pay... We are simple-minded, sincere, lowly, law-abiding workers who have maintained traditions of simple honesty, industry and frugality, as much from choice as from necessity. Few of us have education, but we have learned not to heed the blandishments of self seeking politicians, impostors, and the unworthy and the undesirable products of a hectic civilization that is foreign to our nature.Within eight months, 400,000 colored Americans had signed the memorial which was sent to President Roosevelt on November 14, 1932. When the President replied that it was not practical at that time to consider the proposed steps for repatriation, the leaders of the memorialists sought aid in Virginia. This was the State which had taken the initiative in acquiring the territory which formed the country of Liberia. In February, 1936, the General Assembly of Virginia passed the following Memorial to Congress:
Whereas there is valuable land sparse]y populated in the republic of Liberia, a portion of which land is reserved for American Negro colonies, and many of our Negroes evidence a desire to live in an independent nation of Negroes and strive to achieve a high and honorable race destiny:The Virginia memorial was similar to the following resolution, which was passed by the Senate of the Mississippi Legislature in 1922.
Be it resolved, by the Senate of the State of Mississippi, the House of Representatives concurring therein, that we do hereby most solemnly memorialize the Congress of the United States of America to request the President to acquire by treaty, negotiations or otherwise from our late war allies sufficient territory on the Continent of Africa to make a suitable, proper and final home for the American Negro, where under the tutelage of the American government he can develop for himself a great republic, to become in time a free and sovereign state and take its place at the council boards of the nations of the world, and to use such part of our allied war debt as may be necessary in acquiring such territorial concession, to the end that our country may become one in blood as in spirit, and that the dream of our forefathers may be realized in the final colonization of the American Negro on his native soil, and that the spirit of race consciousness now so manifest in the American Negro may be given an opportunity for development under the most advantageous circumstances.On May 24, 1938, I introduced in the United States Senate an amendment to the general relief bill, then under consideration, which provided for the repatriation of citizens of the United States of African descent to the Republic of Liberia and/or such contiguous territory as may be acquired by the United States by purchase from France and Great Britain. Such negotiations were to be consummated on the basis that the purchase price of the acquired territory should be represented by a credit on the war debts owing to the United States by these countries. I then withdrew the amendment, having availed myself of the opportunity of submitting what I believed to be irrefutable reasons for its support, because I considered it the wiser plan to offer the proposition to the next Congress as an independent measure.
In conformity with my pledge, I submitted to the Senate a bill for the voluntary resettlement of American Negroes in West Africa on April 24, 1939. By this time, the number of signers to the memorial requesting the repatriation of American Negroes, which I now have in my possession, had reached more than two and one-half million. At the beginning of this speech, I remarked:
The most gratifying thing in my life is to be able today to present to the American Congress petitions signed by two and a half million American Negroes pleading and begging for a physical separation of the races. By their act in signing these petitions to be resettled in their fatherland - Africa - they say to the world, 'We are proud of our race; we believe in racial integrity; we are not willing to have our blood stream commingled with the white blood. We want to flee from this certain disaster that is going to overtake both races by complete amalgamation and the production of a mongrel race.'Since the time of this speech and the introduction of the bill to voluntarily resettle American Negroes in Africa (copy of the bill may be found in Appendix A, page 298), approximately another half million Negroes have signed the petition. Let me at this point, here and now, vividly impress upon the mind of every reader of this book that at no time in the history of the program for repatriation - from 1817, the year of the organization of the American Colonization Society, to the present date - has any advocate of this plan, with the possible exception of one, ever suggested or even intimated that force would be used to carry out the program of resettling the American Negro in his ancestral home, West Africa. Not even during the days when the Negroes were held in slavery did Jefferson, Monroe, Clay, Mercer, or Lincoln suggest that they be removed to Africa or anywhere else by force.
The repatriation of the Negro to Africa has at all times during the long history of the movement been left to the will of the Negro to go. And today, by virtue of the adoption of the war amendments to the Federal Constitution, the Negro is a citizen of the United States, and it would certainly be foolish to talk about sending him to Africa by force. Therefore, let me again repeat that no one has ever suggested the use of force.
Notwithstanding the above fact, certain negro leaders - the smart intelligentsia - who want mongrelization have tried to leave the impression with the american negro population that bilbo and his followers are trying by force to send the negro to africa. this is a vicious and malicious mis-statement of the facts.
I believe that the great body of Arnerican Negroes will gladly return to their fatherland if the Congress will provide the ways and means for their transportation and will provide for their support and maintenance in their new home until they can get their feet on the ground. The petition with some 3,000,000 signers is certainly evidence to support this contention. If the Congress would defy the present day Negro leaders, who advocate full equality and amalgamation, ignore their threats and intimidation and enact the necessary legislation for the repatriation program, this great movement could be inaugurated and completed within the next fifteen to twenty-five years. This is the only way that we can save both the white and Negro races from the certain doom of universal mongrelization; hence, the title of this book, Take Your Choice - Separation or Mongrelization.
Without a doubt, the interest in the repatriation program is being reviewed today, and millions of American Negroes are expressing the desire to establish a country of their own in Africa. There is still opposition to this plan among certain Negro leaders and those who favor the amalgamation of the races. But there are real leaders, Negroes who believe in their own race and its future, who are interested in colonization and are ready to cooperate in a plan for repatriation. In a speech in the United States Senate on May 1O, 1945, I read in full correspondence which I had recently had with a Negro preacher in Savannah, Georgia. Because these letters from the Reverend Lewis Lewellyn Scott show evidence of real leadership, they are here given in full:
The Second Baptist Church
May 3, 1945
The Second Baptist Church
May 8, 1945Former President Edwin A. Barclay of Liberia has announced that millions of acres of land in Liberia are ready and waiting to be settled by American Negroes. The gateway to this country in West Africa is open for thousands, even millions, of Negroes who are anxious to return to the land of their ancestors, and the Federal Government can acquire other lands in Africa which will afford suitable homes for American Negroes. The Congress of the United States must enact legislation to carry out a program of repatriation in answer to the demands of both the white and black races who realize that physical separation is the only adequate solution to the race problem in this country.
Millions of American Negroes have signed a petition asking to be returned to their fatherland, Africa. In making this request, they have said: "With you, we have learned, we cannot form one homogeneous people, neither can our race dwell with you together on an equality. We believe in racial integrity and condemn the amalgamation of the races. Send us back to Africa that we may do our long-delayed divinely appointed work. Provide the ways and means for those of us who are willing and anxious to go to the Republic of Liberia, already founded by the beneficence of the American Government. Start the emigration by government aid and acquire new territories adjacent or contiguous to Liberia so that in time all citizens in your country of African descent may find a home in the fatherland and there be privileged to work out their own salvation and the redemption of benighted Africa."
The colonization movement is not new; it has been interwoven as a part of our nation's history. The time has now come when this task can no longer be postponed if racial integrity is to be preserved. The successful completion of a program of repatriation was the dream of Jefferson and Lincoln and many other of our most outstanding statesmen. We must make their dream a reality.