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Indiana Colonization Efforts

From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the ACS encouraged the establishment of state auxiliaries. The Corydon Indiana Gazette, February 3, 1820 reported on a January 20, 1820 meeting where some of the most notable citizens of the state organized an auxiliary "to aid and assist the American Colonization Society in its laudable and humane intentions."

Indiana state officials spoke in favor of the colonization effort. The Indiana General Assembly, on February 7, 1825, concurred with a resolution proposed by the Ohio legislature which asked Congress for help in promoting emancipation and colonization. Indiana Governor James Brown Ray in his 1829 message to the General Assembly applauded colonizationists and their activities.

In 1829, another group formed the Indiana Colonization Society (ICS) in Indianapolis. The ICS met annually until 1838-1839 and then became inactive. For a time, it published The Colonizationist.

A majority of Hoosier black citizens opposed colonization. They met in Madison and Indianapolis during the winter of 1841-1842 to discuss emigration. Delegates considered emigration to Jamaica, Canada, or Oregon, but African colonization received little support. The Indiana Sentinel, March 1, 1842 (excerpts below) reported on the 1842 conventions which resolved against colonization.

Indiana black convention in 1842

Article from Indiana Sentinel

Black citizens met in Indianapolis on January 17, 1842 to discuss the organization of a statewide convention to promote unity among the black population regarding colonization. Excerpts from the newspaper report are reproduced above.

Indiana Sentinel, March 1, 1842.

In response to the growing agitation, the ICS renewed its activity for colonization in the fall of 1845 and hired its first regular agent, the Reverend Benjamin T. Kavanaugh, a Methodist minister from Wisconsin. He traveled throughout Indiana organizing local auxiliaries, soliciting funds, and recruiting emigrants to Liberia.

After several meetings in Indianapolis in 1845, Kavanaugh met with the ICS Board of Managers which decided that an Indiana black citizen should go to Liberia and report back to other Indiana citizens. At a December 1845 meeting, the ICS resolved to request all ministers in the state to take up collections for the ACS on the Sunday nearest July 4. The ICS also made plans to provide the newsletter of the ACS, The African Repository, to all ministers.

With ICS approval, Kavanaugh secured the services of the Reverend Willis R. Revels, a traveling African Methodist Episcopal minister. Kavanaugh believed Revels had great influence within the black community in Indiana. Revels won approval from black citizens at meetings in Terre Haute and Lafayette, but he soon gave up his post. According to Kavanaugh, he was pressured by abolitionists to resign.

The Reverend James Mitchell, a young Methodist minister from Franklin, replaced Kavanaugh as agent of the ICS. Under Mitchell's direction, most of Indiana's emigrants removed to Liberia. Mitchell persuaded William W. Findlay, who emigrated in 1850, to write his appeal "To the Colored People of Indiana." In this 1849 circular, Findlay outlined his reasons for emigrating and invited other blacks to join him. Excerpts are printed below.

Findlay's appeal caused Fort Wayne blacks to voice an extremely strong denunciation of African colonization. Excerpts are printed below.

Sources: Eleventh Annual Report of the Indiana Colonization Society, 12, 15; Riker and Thornbrough, 469-70; Thornbrough, Negro, 77, 75, 79-81, 87.