From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Colored Emigration Movement

Colored emigrationists worked toward the development of a plan for free Colored persons to leave the United States, both before and after the Fugitive Slave Bill became law in 1850. Geographic locations that were considered for settlements included Canada, Liberia, Haiti, Santo Domingo, British West Indies, California, Mexico, and Central America; these were among the same locations considered by the colonizationists and abolitionists.

On September 20, 1830, the Convention of Coloured Persons met in Bethel Church in Philadelphia, PA, to "consider the propriety of forming a settlement in the province of Upper Canada, in order to afford a place of refuge to those who may be obliged to leave their home, as well as those inclined to emigrate with the view of improving their condition" [source: Richard Allen, "Movements of the people of colour," Genius of Universal Emancipation, April 1831, vol. 11, p. 195]. The name of the organization was modified with the influence of William Cooper Nell, an integrationist in Boston, MA.

The Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored People, and Their Friends, was held in Troy, NY, October 5-9, 1847. Delegate representatives were appointed from the northern states of New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and the southern or border state of Kentucky, which was represented by Andrew Jackson (Colored).

Within the organization, Jackson was a member of the Executive Committee on the National Press for the Free Colored People of the United States. The committee was to investigate the creation of a unified press that would help advance the causes of the colored race. In addition to planning for emigration, the convention members sought to establish business and economic independence by trading with Jamaica and Africa. Attending members included Frederick Douglass, who was an anti-colonist and anti-emigrationist, and two fugitive enslaved men from Kentucky, Lewis Hayden and William W. Brown.

In 1854, the National Emigration Convention of Colored People was held in Cleveland, OH, August 24-26, led by Martin R. Delany. In addition to emigration for free Colored persons, the idea was expanded to the creation of a Colored nation. Most of the delegates were from Pittsburgh, PA; others came from Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, and Canada. Those opposed to emigration, such as Frederick Douglass, were not invited or welcomed at the 1854 convention. The convention was held again in 1856.

As the country moved toward the Civil War, the attention of the national Colored emigrationists was focused less on leaving the United States and more on the uncertainty of what might happen in the United States. Emigration of free Colored persons was not a new idea: small colonies from the United States existed before the convention met in Philadelphia in 1830 (see the NKAA entries Freemen Community on Samana Bay (Dominican Republic), Town near Amherstburg, Ontario, and Kentucky, Canada). For more about later colonies see the NKAA entry Proposed American Negro Colony in New Granada.

See also William Cooper Nell, Selected Writings 1832-1874, by D. P. Wesley and C. P. Uzelac; "Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored People and Their Friends, held in Troy, N.Y., 6-9 October 1847" in Minutes and Proceedings of the National Negro Conventions, 1830-1864, by H. H. Bell; "National Emigration Convention of Colored People" in The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History online; H. H. Bell, "The Negro Emigration Movement, 1849-1854: a phase of Negro nationalism," The Phylon Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 2, 2nd Qtr., 1959, pp. 132-142; and H. H. Bell, "Negro Nationalism: a factor in emigration projects, 1858-1861," The Journal of Negro History, vol. 45, no. 1 (Jan., 1962), pp. 42-53.

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“Colored Emigration Movement,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-09-21 14:34:17