The Lost Museum Archive

Colonization Editorial, New York Herald, April 12, 1853

With passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and increased competition for unskilled labor by poor Irish immigrants, conditions for African Americans in New York City deteriorated in the 1850s. Many whites in the South as well as the North viewed colonization, the return of freed slaves to Africa, as a solution to the economic and social injustices of racism. Since the 1830s, the Negro Convention movement had opposed colonization and fought for increased political rights and improved economic conditions in the U.S. This New York Herald editorial argues that the New York State government should help black Americans become citizens of Liberia, the West African nation founded by freed American slaves in 1822, rather than help guarantee their rights as citizens of the U.S.

All persons having a shade of philanthropy in their composition, must have that feeling excited by witnessing the poverty and degradation in which the African race exist in this city. Systematically shut out from all mechanical pursuits, and expelled from almost all the inferior positions they were once allowed to hold here, they have seen their place filled by German and Irish; and now there are not more than half a dozen occupations in which they can engage. Even as waiters in our hotels -- one of the last and best strongholds left them -- they find that they are constantly losing ground by the abler competition of immigrants from Europe. The expulsion of the negroes from almost every branch of industry has had its natural effect in tinning their numbers. And while during the last ten years they have increased in the Southern States at the ratio of thirty percent, the negro population in this State has fallen from fifty to forty-seven thousand.

Under such circumstances, would not the wisest and most philanthropic measure be, to promote, by all possible means, the emigration of the colored people of this State to the republic of Liberia? And would it not be prudent and politic in our government to appropriate a certain annual sum for this purpose? The States of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Indiana, have, from time to time, made considerable appropriations in favor of the scheme of colonization, which has been found to work admirably. The State of New York should not remain passive to the wretched condition of so many of her colored citizens, but do what humanity and sound policy alike suggest -- make such an appropriation as would enable all negroes wishing to emigrate to Liberia to do so free of expense. We trust that the Legislature, at its next session, will not be unmindful of the claims of the African, condemned to a life of abject penury and estitution in this State, and longing for means to enable him to become a good citizen of the modern black republic. Let him have them.