Richard Allen, founding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, objects to colonization on the grounds that it will remove formerly enslaved men and women from the very place where they are more likely to encounter the gospel.

The Revd. Richard Allen, Bishop of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in the U. States. Stipple engraving by John Boyd, after the oil painting by Rembrandt Peale (Philadelphia, 1823). Courtesy of the Library Company,

Dear Sir,

I have been for several years trying to reconcile my mind to the Colonizing of Africans in Liberia, but there have always been, and there still remain great and insurmountable objections against the scheme. We are an unlettered people, brought up in ignorance, not one in a hundred can read or write, not one in a thousand has a liberal education; is there any fitness for such to be sent into a far country, among heathens, to convert or civilize them, when they themselves are neither civilized or christianized? See the great bulk of the poor, ignorant Africans in this country, exposed to every temptation before them: all for the want of their morals being refined by education and proper attendance paid unto them by their owners, or those who had the charge of them. It is said by the Southern slave-holders, that the more ignorant they can bring up the Africans, the better slaves they make, ‘go and come.’ Is there any fitness for such people to be colonized in a far country, to be their own rulers? Can we not discern the project of sending the free people of colour away from their country? Is it not for the interest of the slave-holders to select the free people of colour out of the different states, and send them to Liberia? Will it not make their slaves uneasy to see free men of colour enjoying liberty? It is against the law, in some of the southern states, that a person of colour should receive an education, under a severe penalty.

Colonizationists speak of America being first colonized, but is there any comparison between the two? America was colonized by as wisejudicious and educated men as the world afforded. William Penn did not want for learningwisdomor intelligence. If all the people in Europe and America were as ignorant, and in the same situation as our brethren, what would become of the world? where would be the principle or piety that would govern the people? We were stolen from our mother country, and brought here. We have tilled the ground and made fortunes for thousands, and still they are not weary of our services. But they who stay to till the ground must be slaves. Is there not land enough in America, or “corn enough in Egypt?”1

Why should they send us into a far country to die? See the thousands of foreigners emigrating to America every year: and if there be ground sufficient for them to cultivate, and bread for them to eat; why would they wish to send the first tillers of the land away? Africans have made fortunes for thousands, who are yet unwilling to part with their services; but the free must be sent away, and those who remain must be slaves. I have no doubt that there are many good men who do not see as I do, and who are for sending us to Liberia; but they have not duly considered the subject—they are not men of colour. This land which we have watered with our tears and our blood, is now our mother country, and we are well satisfied to stay where wisdom abounds and the gospel is free.”

RICHARD ALLENBishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States


1 A reference to Genesis 42:2


Allen’s letter originally appeared in Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American owned newspaper in America on November 2, 1827; it was reprinted by David Walker in his Appeal… to the Coloured Citizens of the World (Boston: 1830), 63-65.