This week's blog is a very brief look at the American Colonization Society, which had a small following here in Clarke County. Much has been written on the subject at large by other institutions, so look for further reading suggestions at the bottom.
The American Colonization Society (ACS) was founded in 1815 by a man named Robert Finley. The general idea was to encourage and support the voluntary migration of free African-Americans to the continent of Africa. With the growing number of African-Americans, both enslaved and freed, the white population was growing increasingly worried about the influences the freed population would and could have on the enslaved population. As Clarke county was the only county in the lower valley region to have a black population close to 50% on the eve of the Civil War, fears were extra high. Would the Freed Persons of Color (FPOC) incite the enslaved population to revolt? There was, after all, at least one shot at an insurrection in 1860. The white population was nervous.
Perhaps the most vocal supporter of the ACS was Ann Page, of Annfield. A deeply religious woman, she sought the betterment of her enslaved peoples by encouraging their religious studies and by actually sending a few people to what became Liberia, on the continent of Africa.
Liberia, it turned out, was more of a death trap for new settlers than the Americans anticipated, yet more and more People of Color continued to be sent. Of nearly 5,000 people sent between 1820 and 1843, there was less than 2,000 people left alive in 1843.
The ACS had a long history, running from 1815 until it's formal dissolution in 1963. Due to the nature of the 1950s - 1990s, many scholars are hesitant to place the ACS as either a pro or anti slavery organization. It's up to you to decide where you stand on the issue.
Melanie is the current archivist for the Clarke County Historical Association, in Berryville, Virginia. She is a graduate from Shepherd University, where she earned a degree in History.