BISHOP RICHARD ALLEN

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“The free Blacks of Philadelphia, an important group led by Bishop Richard Allen and Rev. Absalom Jones around Mother Bethel Church, not only went against the advice of their leaders when they soundly rejected the American Colonization Society’s proposal on a meeting held at Mother Bethel Church on January 15, 1817, but went further and created a committee to formally oppose the ACS and led a public protest involving hundreds of Philadelphia’s free Blacks. Understanding the colonization scheme to be a plot to cement slavery by removing those who would most naturally oppose it, they wrote: “Whereas our ancestors (not of choice) were the first cultivators of the wilds of America, we their descendents feel ourselves entitled to participate in the blessings of her luxuriant soil…. Resolved, That we never will separate ourselves voluntarily from the slave population in this country; they are our brethren by the ties of consanguinity, of suffering, and of wrongs….”

The government of the young Haitian Republic had since the time of Pétion and Christoph openly offered refuge to enslaved Africans in the Americas. It is however, under the government of Pierre Boyer (1820-1843) that structured plans are made that result in the emigration of about six thousand free Blacks from the United States to Saint Domingue.

The free Blacks of Philadelphia who had unanimously rejected the ACS’ proposal of African Colonization, are now enthusiastically behind Boyer’s proposal and in short time gathered the people and resources necessary to make it a reality. In a later effort, Bishop Allen met with 38 delegates from 8 states to form the American Society of Free Persons of Colour. One of the main proposals of this Society was the purchase of land in Canada for the settlement of free Blacks. Haiti presented them with a unique opportunity to prove wrong the prejudicial assumptions regarding Black people’s capacity for self-rule and progress. Furthermore, having completely internalized the Anglo-Protestant ethos of their white masters, the Philadelphia Blacks understood their emigration to Haiti in terms of a missionary-civilizing endeavor. The sense of superiority embedded in this notion would play a large role in the failure of their enterprise and a similar attitude is at the root of many of the problems of the colonial experiment in Liberia.”

Lockward, Jorge (2009).Cocolos in New York: A Preliminary Approach. Presented by J.L.in partial fulfillment of the requirements of RLSOC 772 Anthropology of Religion: Immigrants in America. Instructor: Karen McCarthy Brown. Rutgers University.

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