Moses Brown’s copy of the African Repository

>Quakerism played a profound role in shaping anti-slavery in Rhode Island. When Moses Brown (1738-1836) converted to the new faith in 1773, he underwent a sea change, and soon became Rhode Island’s leading abolitionist. In 1789, Moses Brown helped found the Providence Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and his became one of the most eloquent voices against slavery in eighteenth-century America. Later, Brown joined the American Colonization Society (ACS), which was formed in 1817 to send free African-Americans to Africa as an alternative to emancipation in the United States. In 1822, the society established on the west coast of Africa a colony that in 1847 became the independent nation of Liberia. By 1867, the society had sent more than 13,000 emigrants.

In March 1825, the ACS began a quarterly, The African Repository and Colonial Journal, edited by Ralph Randolph Gurley (1797-1872), who headed the Society until 1844. Conceived as the society’s propaganda organ, the journal promoted both colonization and Liberia. Among the items printed were articles about Africa, letters of praise, official dispatches stressing the prosperity and steady growth of the colony, information about emigrants, and lists of donors. The PPL has a run of issues spanning several decades from the 1820s to the 1850s, and dozens of these issues are copies which were owned by Moses Brown (see detail of his signature on one of the covers).

Beginning in the 1830s, the society was harshly attacked by abolitionists, who tried to discredit colonization as a slaveholder’s scheme. After the Civil War, when many blacks wanted to go to Liberia, financial support for colonization had waned. During its later years the society focused on educational and missionary efforts in Liberia rather than emigration.

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